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A place for archives

From Star Trek scripts to storyboards from Citizen Kane, Indiana University's film collections and related artifacts comprise one of the most comprehensive public collections in the country.

The opening of the IU Cinema in January comes amidst university-wide efforts to preserve, celebrate and share IU's vast archival film holdings with scholars, researchers and general audiences.

Among the artifacts now consolidated and preserved in museum-quality conditions are the first independently produced and directed film by an African American woman, Will, by Jessie Maple; C.B. DeMille's silent epic Chicago; material from writer-director Spike Lee; black-and-white stag films from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction; and 1950s-era educational films that are now considered sociological treasures.

University Cinema

Housed in what once was known as the University Theatre, the new IU Cinema will allow the university's extensive film collections an elegant setting to be viewed, studied and appreciated.

Print-Quality Photo

"Access to these is key," said Jon Vickers, director of IU Cinema. "We're planning public screenings of series such as 'From the Archives' and 'Made in Indiana.' A tremendous amount of resources have been devoted to digitizing significant and fragile materials that will become accessible through a searchable database."

The combination of IU Cinema's advanced technology and the quality of the university's film-related archives is expected to elevate the prominence of these collections within academic circles and beyond.

Conference attendees will be able to view home videos or instructional films on a big screen at the new cinema, while independent filmmakers will see their works look better at IU Cinema than nearly anywhere else.

"It's astonishing to see the convergence, the synergy," said Greg Waller, chair of the Department of Communications and Culture in IU's College of Arts and Sciences. "There's the academic part, the educational part, the digitizing and archival part, the projection and exhibition part; they're all linked —and there's no question that IU can become a national leader."

The approximately 64,000 pieces of films and related archival materials are now stored in a newly constructed temperature- and humidity-controlled facility. Included in the collection are:

  • The David Bradley film collection. Bradley was a former movie director and one of the most significant U.S. collectors of 16mm films. This collection is especially strong in early avant-garde and European films and also contains major works by most of the top Hollywood auteurs.
  • The Black Film Center archive. Arguably the single most important resource in the U.S. for the study of cinema by African Americans, IU's Black Film Center archive includes materials ranging from silent "race" films to contemporary works by directors such as Spike Lee and Charles Burnett. The collection features films, posters, papers and publicity materials. Notable items -- a 1937 British flyer for the film King Solomon's Mine starring Paul Robeson and posters from the Richard Norman collection for all-black cast films from the 1920s, including Black Gold, The Green-Eyed Monster and Regeneration.
  • The Kinsey Institute archives. The Kinsey archives include black-and-white 8mm and 16mm stag films from 1913-1960s; film shorts by Stan Brakhage; sex education movies from the 1970s and 1980s; animal mating behavior photographs by William Dellenback; Swedish erotica from the 1960s and 1970s; more than 700 gay erotica videos produced in the 1970s through 2000s; films, materials and collections of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; production, publicity and other materials related to Bill Condon and Jack Morrissey's Kinsey film; and documentaries and footage of Alfred Kinsey and other sex researchers.
  • The educational film collection. This collection may be the largest collection of short educational films in the nation, dating back to the 1940s, when IU was one of the largest producers and distributors of these films. When other universities began disposing of their collections of educational films, IU continued to acquire them. The films have little instructional value today, but their "time capsule" element makes them a historical and sociological treasure trove for scholars, students and filmmakers.
  • The John Ford collection. This collection already contains the most-requested material from the Lilly Library, which houses most of IU's rare books, manuscripts and other collections. The scripts and production information date back to John Ford's silent films. Also in the collection -- materials related to such films as The Iron Horse, The Long Voyage Home, The Grapes of Wrath and My Darling Clementine.
  • The Orson Welles collection. This archive contains records of Welles' Mercury Theater organization and materials such as scripts, correspondences, contracts and other material relating to Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger and other films. It also contains the scripts, research and production materials for two important unfinished films, Heart of Darkness and It's all True.
  • Movie and television ephemera. The Lilly Library has many scripts of movies and TV shows, ranging from Casablanca to the complete scripts for the Star Trek TV series.

Most of films in the university archives are in 16mm or 8mm formats, with some 35 mm in the collection. The holdings span such formats as DVD, VHS and older and even extinct television formats. The paper collections include scripts, storyboards, promotional material, memos and other correspondences.

Rachael Stoeltje, film librarian for the Herman B Wells Library, said the library staff is working to catalog more than 30,000 items, which will be made available through a searchable database. Before this work began, librarians were receiving one or two requests for footage each week by people making documentaries or commercial films.

Waller said the renewed emphasis on accessibility raises a broad spectrum of possibilities. He is particularly fond of the educational films, which include topics ranging from Japan in the 1950s, World War II propaganda and sex education. Waller pointed out that these older films and technology are already fast friends, with snippets turning up in widely viewed YouTube videos (search YouTube for videos about "manners"). They provide an intriguing, and often humorous glance into the period in which they were made.

"This material will appeal to filmmakers, researchers, undergrads conducting research, people making documentaries for TV and others," Waller said.

"This is a time of incredible potential for preserving and enhancing Indiana University's vast archival holdings," Vickers said. "Most importantly, the IU Cinema enables us to reach across campus into our incredible archives and share these gems with a new audience."

A place for film

The majestic building that once housed the University Theatre will reopen in January 2011 as the new Indiana University Cinema, a world-class space for the scholarly study of film and the highest standards of exhibition of film in its traditional and modern forms.

The recently updated space seamlessly blends the building's classic 1930s architecture with modern lines, featuring several panels of the historic Indiana Murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. One of just 10 THX-certified university cinemas across the country, IU Cinema offers the highest quality motion picture experience available, with the best in 16mm and 35mm film projectors, as well as 2K and 4K digital cinema equipment, all of which were expertly installed by Sony.

IU Cinema will host film premieres and rare archival screenings, film festivals, conferences, filmmaker retrospectives and silent films accompanied by live music. Space will also be available for lectures, visiting film scholars and screening of materials from the IU Archives, including the Black Film Center Archive, the David Bradley Collection and the Peter Bogdanovich Collection.

The IU Cinema will strive to become one of the best public screening rooms in the country — eventually, with a film program to match — offering patrons an unforgettable, unparalleled service experience. Along with outstanding programming and exhibitions, the IU Cinema will develop touring film programs, commission new silent film scores, initiate restorations and partner with established cinemas across the U.S. to build exceptional intercollegiate programs.

For more information about IU Cinema, see