IU Libraries open new screening room, show archived MLK footage

By Sanya Ali

IU Libraries opened a new space to the public while continuing this week’s theme of programming related to Martin Luther King Jr.

The IU Libraries Moving Image Archive and the Office of the Bicentennial screened a collection of King-related films Thursday evening in the Herman B Wells Library. Professor Alex Lichtenstein of the Department of History gave remarks at the event.

Lichtenstein spoke briefly about the value of resources like the films available in the archives in spreading the truth about people like King and events like the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“They are amazing documents of the civil rights movement at the time that it was unfolding,” Lichtenstein said. “This is the kind of thing that, certainly in a history classroom, we want students to understand. It would be nice if our president-elect understood something about the civil rights movement — he might have resisted some of the remarks he made last weekend.”

Lichtenstein was referring to the president-elect’s comments regarding Civil Rights leader John Lewis, who recently questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s election.

Lichtenstein said watching such content as the documentaries and newsreels played during the event can help to lift the veil of myth.

“We realize when we watch them, we’ve grown up with a series of myths about the civil rights movement,” Lichtenstein said.

Andy Uhrich, film archivist with IU Libraries, and Kristin Leaman, bicentennial archivist, arranged the event as a sort of soft opening for the new screening room in the basement of Wells.

The new screening space was created to fulfill a need for a multimedia space different from some of those already existing on campus.

“The space was created to sort of fill a need on campus to have a media room that was not as big as the IU Cinema, but at the same time nicer than a classroom with the projector,” Uhrich said. “We were thinking about promoting the collections on campus, and so we’re showing some digitized films from the 1960s that talk about Dr. King during his life.”

The newly opened space has the ability to show films on a variety of formats, including VHS, DVD and even older film styles. Thursday’s event was the first event to make use of the space, and throughout the day a variety of films played back-to-back as viewers walked in and out.

“I’m happy with the turnout, given that this is a brand new space that has just been redone and is still kind of hidden in the depths of Wells,” Leaman said. “It’s been really busy. We had about four people who came right at 2 o’clock.”

Leaman said the idea for this event came about when Uhrich paid a visit to the archives and the two began discussing possible events that could unite the Office of the Bicentennial with another department to collaborate for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Once Uhrich said the archives had plenty of footage dealing with King and the civil rights movement, Leaman said the event came together easily. She said she looked forward to hearing Lichtenstein’s historical background on the 1960s movement.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the films as well,” Leaman said. “I popped my head in on a couple of them, and it was amazing to see that there was one where Martin Luther King Jr. was actually in an airplane talking and he was hoarse from all the speeches he had been doing previously.”