Teaching with Primary Sources: Media Studies and the Archive/ Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier Vol 4(3)





Teaching with Primary Sources: Media Studies and the Archive

Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier Vol 4 (3) 

Edited by Kate Fortmueller, University of Georgia and Laura Isabel Serna, University of Southern California

Table of Contents

Rebooting Studies of Film Authorship by Curating in the Classroom at Michigan by Matthew Solomon, Vincent Longo, and Philip Hallman

Digital Resources for Film Studies from the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library by Jenny Romero

Film History Comes Alive: Primary Materials Research as Participatory Pedagogy by Emily Carman

Traversing the Scales of Archival Research by Martin L. Johnson

Teaching Radio History to Help Save It?: Listening, Radio Preservation, and the History Classroom by Christine Ehrick

Teaching Local Television History with Primary Sources by Stephen Groening


As we have both discovered, primary historical sources have the capacity to animate discussions of film and media history in compelling, substantive ways. Working with primary sources allows students the opportunity to experience the thrill of discovery, see first hand the complexity of the past, and use their analytical skills to coax meaning out of the past. At the same time, incorporating archival materials into undergraduate courses often seems intimidating or time consuming, and indeed, these kinds of projects require a great deal of planning to make student encounters with the archive successful. Additionally, proximity to and distance from media archives present practical obstacles to creating and executing projects using primary, archival sources with undergraduates. Given these challenges how can we effectively incorporate the study of archival material into undergraduate teaching?

This dossier on teaching with primary sources seeks to expand on the dossier “Teaching Humanistic Research Methods” by addressing the use of primary sources in the undergraduate classroom. In crafting our CFP we saw three approaches to teaching with primary sources that seemed particularly promising: the growing ability to media-related archives online in digital form, the creative use of local archival collections, and collaborative teaching with archives or special collections. The submissions for this dossier span all of these approaches and provide concrete examples of how to use primary sources in film, radio, and television history courses. Matthew Solomon, Vincent Longo, and Philip Hallman explain, from the perspective of a professor, student, and librarian, what it means to redesign a course to make use of an institution’s special collections. Writing about digital collections that have been produced by an institution not affiliated with a university or college, Jenny Romero offers a thorough description of the Margaret Herrick Library’s physical and digital resources and Emily Carman lays out the many ways she has worked with her home library to provide students access to digital primary sources and guide them through independent research.  Martin L. Johnson focuses on the ways in which both digital and physical archives can help students connect to Hollywood history on a more personal level or at a more granular level. Christine Ehrick outlines how the use of archival radio in the classroom helps students understand the importance of radio preservation. Finally, Stephen Groening demonstrates how he reimagined a television history course to focus on student research about local television history in Seattle.


Emily Carman is an associate professor of film studies in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, where she teaches a versatile range of classes primarily on American cinema, film history, and historiography for undergraduate and graduate students. She is author of Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System (University of Texas Press, 2016) and co-editor of Hollywood and the Law (BFI Press, 2015). She has also published articles in Cinephile, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Celebrity Studies, and The Moving Image.

Christine Ehrick is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Louisville, where she has taught since 2001.  Her second book, Radio and the Gendered Soundscape: Women and Broadcasting in Argentina and Uruguay, 1930-1950 (Cambridge, 2015) is a study of women’s voices and golden age broadcasting in South America’s two most important early radio markets. In addition to courses on Latin American and World History, she regularly teaches a History of Radio class at the graduate and advanced undergraduate level. She is also currently the Communications Director for the Radio Preservation Task Force, a federal project overseen by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress

Kate Fortmueller is an assistant professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at the University of Georgia, where she teaches courses in media theory and media industries. Her research utilizes both archival evidence and ethnographic methods to explore historical and contemporary issues for people working in film, television, and digital production. Her work appears in Film History, Journal of Film and Video, Television & New Media, and Spectator.

Stephen Groening is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media at the University of Washington and the author of Cinema Beyond Territory: Inflight Entertainment and Atmospheres of Globalization (BFI, 2014). He has published articles in Film History, Film Criticism, History and Technology, New Media and Society and Visual Studies. His current book project traces the influence of television on postwar European critical theory.

Philip Hallman is the Field Librarian for Film Studies and the Curator of the Screen Arts Mavericks and Makers Collections at the University of Michigan Special Collections Library. He has guided student-curated exhibitions of some of the collection’s leading creators, including Robert Altman, John Sayles, Orson Welles, and Ira Deutchman.

Martin L. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Media and Communication Studies at The Catholic University of America. His first book, Main Street Movies: The History of the Local Film in the United States, is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. He has published articles in The Moving Image, the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, and Early Popular Visual Culture.

Vincent Longo is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan who has used extensive research in the international Welles archives as the basis for conference papers and audiovisual essays, a live multimedia staging of “Too Much Johnson” at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a scholarly anthology chapter. In 2017, he was the first Ph.D. pre-candidate in the history of the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program to receive the “outstanding mentor” award for his mentorship of four first-year undergraduate researchers.

Jenny Romero is Head of Reference and Public Services at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, where she has worked closely with researchers for more than a decade.  She received a B.A. in Film and Latin American Studies from Vassar College, and an M.A. in Film Studies with Film Archiving from the University of East Anglia.

Laura Isabel Serna is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where she teaches international film history, historical methods, and Latino/a and Latin American cinema and media. A historian by training and predilection her research focuses on uncovering and recovering histories thought lost or unimportant. She is the author of Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014) as well as essays that have been published in Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History, Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, and Film History. 

Matthew Solomon is Associate Professor in the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan. He is the author of a 2015 BFI Film Classics monograph on The Gold Rush and of Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century, which won the Kraszna-Krausz award for best moving image book in 2011, and is the editor of Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination: Georges Méliès’s Trip to the Moon. In addition to regularly teaching the large introductory lecture course, “Art of Film,” he has taught a number of different courses for graduate and undergraduate students involving methods of film historical primary-source research at the University of Michigan, the City University of New York, Indiana University, and New York University.

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