Over the summer, the Media History Digital Library (MHDL) launched the new search and visualization platform Lantern for its collection of over 800,000 pages of digitized film and media publications. Although I served as the project’s lead designer and developer, the project would have been impossible without the close collaboration of teams from the MHDL and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts, along with the sponsors, collectors, and institutions who enabled the scanning (click here for the full list of credits).
In the spirit of extending the collaboration even further, I pitched In Media Res on the idea of working together on a theme week. Alisa Perren and I approached film and TV scholars with expertise in broadcasting (Kathryn Fuller-Seeley), fan magazines (Anne Helen Petersen), non-theatrical cinema (Jennifer Horne), and the Hollywood film industry (Kate Fortmueller). We were delighted when they all agreed to serve as IMR curators.
I could not resist curating one object myself: the first issue of The Implet (1912), featuring a letter “from the Editor to his Readers.” The none-too-modest editor, Thomas Bedding, proclaims he was “predestined to edit the The Implet." Despite being the house organ for Carl Laemmle’s Imp Film Company, Bedding promises that the magazine will “address all exhibitors, manufacturers and the general public throughout the world” and “be different from anything and everything else.” In actuality, The Implet lasted for only a few months before transforming into the more straightforward exhibitor-oriented house organ, Universal Weekly.
Nevertheless, this short-lived publication highlights much of what I find most fascinating about the MHDL’s periodicals. Ambition, showmanship, and entrepreneurial zeal are laced into the DNA of industry-related publications. The Implet was a house organ, but in other cases, trade papers directly clashed with producers, studios, and competing publishers. The entertainment trade press has a rich history, and my new book project combines archival research and data mining to excavate this history and analyze how the trade press functioned within the industry ecosystem.
The Implet also reminds us that there is a vast pool of film and media publications beyond the short list of greatest hits that scholars generally use (see Lantern’s interactive homepage visualization for more on this point). As the co-director of the MHDL, it has been a pleasure to expand access to that pool, watch scholars and fans go swimming, and see what they discover.