IU Libraries Film Archive brings history to life through digitized collection

I can still remember the feeling of sitting in a darkened room amid my fellow students, the clicking and whirring of the 16mm projector nearly drowning out the tinny audio as we thrilled in the knowledge that we were watching a movie in class.

All fun aside, it always seemed the scientific concept or mathematical theory explained through image and sound made so much more sense than it did when studied abstractly.

Furry film star Chucky Lou.

Now, in an effort to preserve one of the most extensive collections of historic educational films in existence, the IU Libraries Film Archive has digitized nearly 200 such films and made them available online.

“Many of these films serve as important historical documents from the past,” IU Libraries Film Archivist Rachael Stoeltje told IU’s Home Pages. “We have several ‘day in the life’ films that show school children of different ages, technology-related films depicting what was then state-of-the-art photography and filmography, and fascinating films about different aspects of college life.”

The collection includes “Booze and You’s,” a 1977 primer on drinking responsibly that generated a great deal of controversy in its characterization of alcohol consumption among college students; and the 1958 film “The Fraternity Idea” featuring former IU President Herman B Wells recalling his fraternity years.

It also boasts the creepy — there’s “Chucky Lou: The Story of a Woodchuck,” which introduces viewers to a rescued woodland creature who allows children to dress her in doll clothes — and the historical. A World War II buff, I was particularly interested in the 1943 film “IU Goes to War,” which shows how the campus contributed to the war effort.

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