South Side Home Movie Project at the University of Chicago - Podcast Interview with Candace Ming

From the SSHMP gallery of stills

From the SSHMP gallery of stills

From the SSHMP gallery of stills

From the SSHMP gallery of stills

The South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP) is an initiative to collect, preserve, digitize, exhibit, and document home movies made by residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. The SSHMP seeks to increase understanding of the many histories and cultures comprising Chicago’s South Side, and of amateur filmmaking practices, by asking owners of home movies (shot on 8mm, Super8mm, 16mm film) to share their footage and describe it from their personal perspectives.

Young South-Siders sharing what they learned from the Home Movie Project's Arts Administration and Community Engagement Internship

Young South-Siders sharing what they learned from the Home Movie Project's Arts Administration and Community Engagement Internship

The project brings materials that are typically kept in private collections into public light and discussion. We aim to build an alternative, accessible visual record, filling gaps in existing written and visual histories, and ensuring that the diverse experiences and perspectives of South Siders will be available to larger audiences and to future generations. [Copied from the SSHMP website.

Project Manager/Archivist Candace Ming (pictured at the podium below) joined the project in November 2015 to manage the project's growing archive and expand it's visibility. Ming is a graduate of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at New York University. Before joining the South Side Home Movie Project she worked as a Public Records Officer for the New York Police Department designing the infrastructure they would need to archive and store their vast collection of training films. She also worked at the Museum of Modern Art where she worked with Curator Ron Magliozzi and Conservateur Peter Williamson on the newly discovered outtakes of an unreleased Biograph Bert Williams film. Ming researched the lead actress in the film, identified as Odessa Warren Grey. (Copied from the SSHMP website).

candace at podium 2.jpg

Lessons Learned from the Mooresville YouTube Miracle

Mooresville, Indiana, Public Library. Looks normal, right? 

Mooresville, Indiana, Public Library. Looks normal, right? 

Assuming it hasn't changed much since the 2010 US Census, Mooresville, Indiana has a population of 9,326. A casual glance at Google Maps shows it to be an apparently ordinary Central Indiana town that rates a Steak 'n Shake and a Lowe's Home Improvement, but also sports local color such as Squealers Award Winning Barbeque and Dong's Chinese Buffet. Whatever else it has going for it, Mooresville has at least one extraordinary aspect: its public library has a YouTube channel with over 1,200,000 views. 

If you want to place that in perspective, the New York Public Library's YouTube Channel has 10,732 subscribers and 677 videos. Mooresville has 810 subscribers (3 were added while I was writing this), and 800 videos. NYPL's most-watched video is an expensive time-lapse piece with 197,181 views. Mooresville's most-watched video is Animal Alphabet Song Video, by Miss Jaymi (357,574 views).

Some of the library's other successful videos have included a book trailer for Took, by Mary Downing Hahn (66K views), and a book trailer for Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (92,356 views).

The Mooresville Public Library channel features book trailers, how-to pieces, sing-alongs, read-alouds, a ukulele checkout promotion, and a welcome video that sums up their style in a minute and 20 seconds. If that's not enough to get your heart pumping, see their video for Banned Books Week.

Bill Buckley, Mooresville Public Library's video writer/director/producer, poses for a mug shot.

Bill Buckley, Mooresville Public Library's video writer/director/producer, poses for a mug shot.

The mastermind behind this incredibly successful social media story is William (Bill) Buckley, who founded the channel 8 years ago this month. You don't have to be Roger Ebert to figure out that Bill's not a Stanford film school grad and that the library's production budget is next to nothing. I doubt if Bill has spent 30 seconds thinking about his channel's SEO or watching one of those "How to Get a Million Views" videos on YouTube. Nevertheless, he and his colleagues have created an enduring, nay — burgeoning, video brand that appeals to the kind of people who like public libraries.

I believe other institutions can learn from MPL because underneath its low-budget simplicity lies a scathingly brilliant strategy.

Mooresville Public Library's staff, basking in the glow of vast internet fame.

Mooresville Public Library's staff, basking in the glow of vast internet fame.

First, the videos are fun and unpretentious — some are scary, some are hilarious, and some are so cute that you have to watch them several times. The latest is a Dr. Who-type piece complete with BBC opening graphics that is flatly the silliest thing I've seen in a long time. And I loved it. This level of creativity says volumes about the institution it represents: that they're smart but likeable; they care enough about the viewer to create something interesting with few resources; they're the opposite of the library stereotype of stern and quiet; they sincerely want you to come to the library and spend time there. 

Second, the videos are prodigious — they've averaged two per week, so there's always something new to look at. And the unspoken message behind that big number is that the library in this small town is important and loaded with fascinating content and services.

Finally, the MPL videos exemplify the notion that libraries themselves embody a spirit of generosity, hopefulness, curiosity, wonder, civility and community. That's a pretty important message to get across and one that likely transcends the Mooresville city limits, inspiring shares across the internet.

Here's a link to Bill Buckley's own blog and more about the MPL YouTube Channel. And here's a link to their most popular blog, Cat's Eye View @ MPL, which Bill insists is actually written by a cat.