The question of why regional media collections matter underlies the posts about the films showcased throughout this week’s focus upon Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) content. From my perspective as media educator and archivist, the answers presented to this question thus far have proved fascinating. Genealogical interests; voyeuristic impulses; and powerful emotions of memory and loss live next to the simple enjoyment of often very kitschy material. This array of reactions lends credence to my likening of our work to a geographically focused YouTube.
So, here’s a new answer to the question. First, check out our clip from the highly entertaining (and educational!) film, “How Motor Cars and Other Living Things Can Find Happiness in the Dallas Freeway System.” Sponsored by the City of Dallas in 1970, the film was produced by Bill Stokes’ Associates, a leader in Dallas’ substantive industrial filmmaking community and “starred” legendary performer, Mel Blanc (aka the voice of Bugs Bunny.)
The film exemplifies how TAMI material complicates traditional notions of American media history. Professors are not likely to find “How Motor Cars…” in textbooks, but shouldn’t the powerful economic and cultural force of industrial filmmaking be present in analyses of American media industries? Is it a locally relevant piece? Regional? National? How can use it be used today and by whom? Does it help media scholars trace the history of American animation, or does it allow a local historian to see the evolution of Dallas? Can it be used by environmentalist activists, driver's ed teachers, or can it assist city council members liven up a meeting on urban planning?
The use of sub-national media collections in the United States, by scholars and the public alike, remains rare. But with increased awareness of the work of organizations like TAMI, I hope that media histories of the 21st century will prove more complicated and diverse, but as equally edifying as those that have come before.