Over the summer, Austin was abuzz with the filming of the extremely short-lived ABC drama My Generation. It seemed like every place you'd go, film crews were shooting scenes for the show, even in the building that houses the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI). Although I knew little about the show’s plot, I was excited about it. I could pretend this was rooted in my concern for our local filmmaking economy, but the more accurate statement is that I was excited about seeing my town, my community, and, ultimately, myself on the screen.
So, what does that have to do with the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. TAMI is an organization working to digitally preserve and provide Web access to moving images of Texas. Working with individuals and institutions, TAMI digitizes moving images related to the history and culture of Texas and then provides streaming video of the materials on texasarchive.org. By focusing on "orphan" materials including home movies, industrial films, local television, and more, TAMI also challenges traditional film history narratives by showcasing the Lone Star state's rich filmmaking history.
Of the over a thousand videos on texasarchive.org, the most popular is "Our Home Town" an itinerant film showing the people and places of San Marcos, ca. 1949. With versions filmed in cities across the U.S., this is one of the few existing and accessible "Our Home Town" films. After two years on texasarchive.org, the film was discovered by a group of San Marcos citizens and inspired an article in the local newspaper. In one weekend, the film jumped from around 100 views to 5,000 and now has over 12,000. Was it because this is an important historical record? Possibly. I prefer to think these people were excited about seeing their community, ancestors, neighbors, and, of course, themselves on the screen.
This is only one example of the experiences that can be elicited by viewing archival media. During this week focusing on the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, you'll see responses to a variety of TAMI films.Dr. Horace Newcomb looks back to the University of Texas Tower shootings via a newsreel of the events. John Slate, archivist for the City of Dallas, examines the mythology of Texas in "Texas: the Big State." Dr. Afsheen Nomai ponders home movie preservation. Wrapping it all up, Dr. Caroline Frick Page, TAMI's founder, takes on "How Motor Cars and Other Living Things Can Find Happiness in the Dallas Freeway System." Stay tuned!