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Commentaries on this Media!

Making the Past Visible: Introduction

by Ethan Tussey

by Ethan Thompson for IN MEDIA RES

From newly indexed collections in brick and mortar archives, to “official” online sources, to hidden or just under-funded collections, there is an expanding universe of historical artifacts to access. What do we do with those artifacts once we copy, photograph, or download them? This workshop will bring together scholars at SCMS 2015 who work with historical film, television, and digital artifacts and archival documents to have a discussion about how best to bring these materials into scholarship, into the classroom, and to the public. As historians we sometimes gain access to unofficial, unprocessed collections. What are the appropriate ways to use, share, and cite this material? How can we help the organizations who lack the funding and staff to properly preserve and manage their collections? This workshop will discuss different ways of organizing and sharing artifacts, not just to gain access or manage them, but to see and hear them in ways that instigate historiographical thought. Still and moving images can speak more powerfully than words, but are more challenging to quote in traditional publication. How do we make the past visible (or audible) in the scholarly products we produce?

In this video, I talk about some of the ways I dealt with “making the past visible” in my research on the 1960 NBC special, Story of a Family, a program I believe is an early forerunner to the family-reality genre. I wanted to make a documentary to show parts of the program and show the family talking about the program—especially the way it reflected and distorted their lives. But even in research for writing an article about the show, I struggled with “seeing” the historical materials I had collected in productive ways. What do you do when you stubble into an abundance of material you need to wrap your head around? What are the best ways to productively access and use those materials in your research, present them in your scholarship, and preserve them for others to see and use in the future, too?

The Past and SCMS

A video essay concerning SCMS and rendering the past visible

from Making the Past Visible: SCMS2015 and In Media Res (2015)
Creator: Ethan Thompson
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey