Film in Education
The concept of using films in education was only about a decade old, but demand was strong enough that the program was quickly expanded, with more than 1,000 titles purchased over the next year and a catalog printed for distribution. To familiarize U-M faculty and visiting educators with the films’ content, all-day screenings were held at the Rackham Auditorium.
To oversee this growing operation, the Extension Bureau formed a unit called the Bureau of Visual Education, which was headed by Ford Lemler, then in his late 20s. At the time there were about 30 such college-based film loan programs around the U.S. that supplied regional educators with films.
Though interest was primarily from off-campus, the Extension Service also began to provide equipment and trained staff to project films for U-M classes, and provided projection training and program consulting to U-M schools that wanted to use its films.
Some of the titles had been produced on campus, including ones that highlighted the collections of the Clements Library and the University’s archaeological collections. By early 1941 more than 300 schools had signed up as members of the U-M film program, while many other schools and interest groups also rented titles on occasion. Rentals now topped 14,000 per year.
During World War II a number of training films were added including many titles from the Office of War Information and the Office of Civilian Defense. When Ford Lemler joined the U.S. Office of Education to assist with the war effort, his wife was named acting director in his stead for several years. The organization was now situated in North Hall where there was sufficient storage space for the metal shelving units that housed the reels of film, as well as an inspection and shipping department.
The Bureau of Visual Education film collection had now also become a key resource at the University itself, with films frequently used in the Departments of Psychology, Anthropology, Geography, and Archeology, at University Hospital, and by the grade and high schools U-M then operated.