The Black Film Center/Archive has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities 2013 Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to support the program, “Representing Early Black Film Artifacts as Material Evidence in Digital Contexts.”

In November 2013, project director Brian Graney and lead scholar Michael T. Martin will convene an interdisciplinary group of scholars, moving image archivists, and library professionals for a two-day conference and workshop to discuss the new methodologies and questions emerging through recent scholarship in early black-audience film studies and their broader application to other marginalized media cultures with rich histories of material practice. 

Of the hundreds of black-audience films produced since 1905—most notably by Oscar Micheaux—only a small percentage of original film prints are known to exist.  Those that survive are found in fragmentary form or in markedly different versions.  In a 2011 article in Film History, Jacqueline Stewart proposed a challenging new avenue for this area of study by identifying unmined evidentiary value in what “we can learn from the singularity of each print…and what any existing print might teach us about the circulation, exhibition, and content of movies in this under-documented film culture.  Indeed, when we think of each print as a unique artifact, we are encouraged to reconsider what we think of as a film’s ‘content.’”

This letter from a distributor in the field indicates some of physical modifications a Race Film print might endure over the course of a run.  From the Richard E. Norman Collection, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University.
This letter from a distributor in the field indicates some of the modifications a print might endure over the course of a run. From the Richard E. Norman Collection, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University.

Reconsidering how we define the content of a film print to encompass all of its physical characteristics, markings, and structures as a material artifact introduces important questions bearing on how film is represented as a digital object: How can we amend current best practices for digitization of motion picture film which by design omit or obscure physical attributes of the original artifact? What tools might be turned to unconventional uses in representing film artifacts digitally for close examination and study? And how might this representation of film as object offer a conceptual bridge for integrating audiovisual media within a wider network of related visual and textual documentation?


Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, is scheduled to present the keynote address. Other invited conference participants include:

·         Matthew Bernstein (Emory University)

·         Allyson Field (UCLA)

·         Terri Francis (Yale University)

·         Jan-Christopher Horak (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

·         Leah Kerr (Independent archivist)

·         Barbara Tepa Lupack (Independent scholar)

·         Mike Mashon (Library of Congress, Moving Image Section)

·         Charlene Regester (UNC – Chapel Hill)

·         Jacqueline Stewart (Northwestern University)

·         Dana White (Emory University)

 Indiana University faculty and staff contributing to the conference and workshop program include:

 ·        Cara Caddoo (American Studies)

·         William Cowan (IU Libraries Software Development)

·         Barbara Klinger (Communication & Culture)

·         Rachael Stoeltje (IU Libraries Film Archive)

·         Gregory Waller (Communication & Culture)

·         John A. Walsh (Library and Information Science)

 The conference and keynote presentation will be held on Friday, November 15, at the Indiana University Cinema; the workshop will be held on Saturday, November 16, at the Black Film Center/Archive.  For more information, contact Brian Graney at or 812-855-6041.


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National Endowment for the Humanities Support

The Regeneration Conference has been made possible in part by a major  grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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