Since 2013 the WCFTR has been collaborating with the Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums class and student group on a project to process a collection of film materials belonging to the Oneida Cultural Heritage Department. The Tribal, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (TLAM) course is designed to facilitate a participatory learning experience through presentations, readings, service-learning projects, and personal contact with tribal cultural workers with a special emphasis on the tribal cultural institutions of Wisconsin. Course Instructor, Omar Poler, reached out to the surrounding communities and connected with The Oneida Cultural Heritage Department who had hundreds of reels of film to which the content was unknown and the means to view within the sovereign borders was not available. Thus, the Oneida Nation Film Preservation project was established, as was a dynamic partnership not only between the TLAM students and Oneida but with the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR).
Under the guidance of Mary Huelsbeck of WCFTR and the Oneida Cultural Heritage Department, the film processing project began in 2013. The Oneida members communicated their needs to the TLAM team and the project goals were created. Students received training in handling, assessing and using film viewing equipment at the WCFTR. For the duration of the project, the film lived at WCFTR, with yearly deliveries of reviewed film being brought back to Oneida. The project is in its third year and with each new TLAM student involved in the project comes the film training. Amy Sloper has taken over guidance of the project at the WCFTR, continuing to train new group members and advise on project management goals and best practices in the handling of the film materials.
This first phase of reviewing hundreds of film for content and condition is close to wrapping up. The end product will be a report for Oneida that describes the cataloging methods used to describe each film. The Oneida Cultural Heritage Department will review our report to determine which films to digitize in order to provide access to their community members.
All students involved, nearly 22, gained invaluable experience and insight to project planning, serving an indigenous community, and working with film. The project was an ambitious one, with each new TLAM class came learning about what was done and making improvements when possible. This cross-campus and statewide collaboration would not have been possible without the existence of the TLAM course at UW-SLIS, the TLAM student group and an eager group of students, the training and facilities offered via the partnership with WCFTR, or without the Oneida Nation’s willingness to entrust the group with their cultural memories. We believe this collaboration fully embodies the Wisconsin Idea.