Prof. Williams delivers the inaugural annual Ebert Lecture at The Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies at The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Prof. Williams was invited to give the inaugural annual Ebert Lecture at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in October, 2022.  Thanks to Julie Turnock, director of the new Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies at U of I.  Excellent company on the program included Chaz Ebert and Martin Scorsese!

“Re-Enchanting Our Relation to Film and Media History: A Brief Survey of The Media Ecology Project”

The lecture underscores the critical need for a renewed commitment to studying history within the presentist attention economy.  It references the foundational Digital Humanities projects and events at Dartmouth that Prof.Williams has pioneered (directing the Cyber-Disciplinarity Humanities Institute, representing Dartmouth in the international Project Bamboo DH initiative, launching the Journal of e-Media Studies with the Dartmouth Library, co-editing the innovative Interfaces book series, etc.). His outreach to the Association of Moving Image Archivists helped to securely envision MEP and extend the Dartmouth scholarship and publication profile into new realms of primary research fueled by DH capacities for collaboration: a virtuous cycle of online archival access, networked scholarly interventions, and dedicated preservation goals regarding historical media that had been previously foreclosed and endangered.  The 2013 Media Ecology Project Symposium at Dartmouth launched MEP, which has continuously developed sophisticated new tools and research questions directed to film and media history, and has garnered nearly $1 million in grants to date.

Extremely grateful to The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which has funded several key MEP developments:

– Building the Semantic Annotation Tool (SAT), which affords the creation of curated time-based annotations that enhance search-and-discovery within and across media texts and collections, thereby adding value back to participating archives.  The pedagogical advantages include a renewed capacity for close-textual analysis that can inform/teach machine learning algorithms and also raise critical awareness about processes of deep learning distant reading.

– The creation of an online Early Cinema Compendium that will introduce multiple rare searchable digital resources about early U.S. cinema plus new scholarly essays by over a dozen esteemed scholars that engage the compendium materials.  To be published this spring.

– The creation of an online Accessible Civil Rights Heritage collection that collates a searchable list of over 8,000 instances of archival civil rights newsfilm and programming drawn from major U.S. archives but especially a range of local and regional archives, plus a dozen new scholarly essays by esteemed scholars that engage the collection materials.  To be published this spring.

– A new collaborative scholarly project to realize international studies of the moving image legacies of The U.S. Information Agency (USIA), which produced or distributed over 20,000 films/programs during the Cold War.  Since few if any of these texts were allowed to be screened in the U.S. at that time, this project represents an intervention regarding a largely fugitive archive and an opportunity for international scholars to teach the U.S. about its own historical cultural products.  For an introduction to USIA studies, see the special issue of the Journal of e-Media Studies edited by Hadi Gharabaghi and Bret Vukoder.

Oct 28, 2022

Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Thanks to the Lauren Spencer for help preparing the time-based annotations that provide a useful Table of Contents, and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at U Illinois UC for the fine production of this video recording.


Lobby Card Digitization Project (Dwight Cleveland, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Library of Congress)

We have entered into a sizable new collaboration for The Media Ecology Project: the digitization of an extensive collection of silent era lobby cards from Dwight Cleveland (“Cinema on Paper”) and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum!  The first iteration of the project entailed over 13,000 lobby cards that provide invaluable visual culture regarding a mostly lost era of cinema history.  These materials will ultimately serve as a supplement to the forthcoming NEH-sponsored Early Cinema Compendium as a key resource for MEP.  The agreement has recently been amended to include additional lobby cards and glass slides that Cleveland has donated to The Library of Congress, plus additional lobby card materials already at The Library of Congress.
News of the initial agreement has been covered by local and national news services, and was also extended to publications from The Smithsonian and The National Endowment for the Humanities:
Dartmouth News: Dartmouth to Digitize Rare “Lobby Card” Collection (August 2022)


Associated Press coverage (October 2022)


Smithsonian Magazine coverage of the MEP lobby card digitization project (October 2022)


Coverage of the MEP lobby card digitization project in Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities (Winter 2023)



Deep Screens: MEP and DEV Studio Receive Mellon Foundation Public Knowledge Grant

MEP and DEV Studio Receive Mellon Foundation Public Knowledge Grant to Advance Fair Use Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed to bring U.S. copyright law into the network age. Though modernization was clearly needed, certain provisions of the DMCA have remained controversial ever since as society tries to find a balance between rewarding creators and supporting an open, shared culture. In 2021, the Librarian of Congress agreed with the need for some exceptions to anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA and created the Text and Data Mining (TDM) Exemption permitting a big data approach to analysis of visual culture. The 2021 TDM Exemption is a temporary measure that will be reviewed in coming years to determine if it is useful and effective at unlocking large, copyrighted datasets for scholarly inquiry. Looking ahead to forthcoming decisions about whether or not the TDM Exemption should be renewed, in 2022 the Mellon Foundation convened scholars across the country with the goal of developing demonstration projects advancing the argument that text and data mining of content constitute applications of fair use under the DMCA.

The Mellon Foundation has awarded two Dartmouth faculty researchers with grant resources to demonstrate uses of text and data mining in studies of visual culture. Mark Williams, an associate professor and director of the Media Ecology Project, and John Bell, a lecturer and director of ITC’s Data Experiences and Visualizations Studio, are delighted to have support from the Mellon Foundation to create the Deep Screens project. For over a century, motion pictures have been a primarily two-dimensional medium. Occasional forays into 3D glasses aside, most television and film has flattened the three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional image with fixed camera perspectives, defined frame borders, and monocular vision. Williams and Bell will be turning those 2D frames back into 3D spaces–and in the process, providing a case study supporting the extension of a copyright rule critical to digital cultural heritage research.

Over the next 12-months, Deep Screens will use machine learning software to analyze actor poses in a vast curated collection of U.S. film and television texts from 1895 to the 1970s and extract data about their movements. This movement data will then be statistically analyzed, with derivatives and results made available in Dataverse through a partnership with the Dartmouth Library. To make the movement data more relatable, motions and gestures will also be applied to animated avatars that can be viewed in virtual reality, abstracted from the context of the original film or television text. The combination of quantitative analysis of the data itself and qualitative viewing of the abstracted movements will provide insight into how acting, cinematography, and technology have evolved across the span of moving image history.

A project that uses hundreds of hours of commercial film and television copied from over 800 DVDs would normally be legally fraught because, in addition to the underlying United States copyright that protects the narrative content of videos, it is illegal to circumvent the digital encryption protecting video distributed on many DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming sources. The anti-circumvention rule defined in section 1201 of the DMCA has been widely recognized by researchers as too restrictive, with potential unintended consequences ranging from preventing the kind of research Bell and Williams are undertaking to contributing to a future ‘digital dark age’ resulting in the loss of a century of cultural production.

Bell and Williams will work on Deep Screens throughout 2023 with a team of colleagues at Dartmouth, including Assoc. Prof. Desirée Garcia (Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies), Asst. Prof. SouYoung Jin (Computer Science), and the Dartmouth Library, as well as an international group of researchers. They believe this initial foray into examining the third dimension of film will be just the beginning of what is possible using this sort of 2D to 3D machine learning technology. Williams notes that “these digital tools and methods will allow us to pursue new elaborate research questions regarding the poetics of both generic and innovative classical and minority cinemas, plus the symbiosis of television, as moving images became the dominant visual culture of the 20th century.”

“Deep Screens is an opportunity to not just do new, experimental research on film and media history but also to support the concept of critical scholarship as a whole,” says Bell. “Mellon is providing an opportunity to impact the ongoing debate about who owns digital culture and what the rights of its viewers and critics will be in the future.”

For more information about Deep Screens please visit:


Dartmouth signs MOU between Shanghai University and The Media Ecology Project

The Memorandum of Understanding between The Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth and Shanghai University is official!

After years of development and several enthusiastic in-person meetings between Prof. Mark Williams and the principal partners at Shanghai University, Shanghai Film Academy, and Huaxia Film Restoration Technology Company, the path toward the MOU agreement was imperiled by the tragic rise of the COVID pandemic. With strong collaborative energy from Prof. Liping Qu at SHU, the agreement has been finalized and publicized by SHU and the Shanghai Film Academy:

Shanghai Film Academy announcement of strategic collaborative agreement (English translation available!)

Many thanks to Director of Global Initiatives Lisa Adams and Tammy Hickox in the General Counsel’s Office for their help in making this so!  Very grateful for the many efforts on our behalf that have contributed to the realization of this significant opportunity to bridge international artistic and scholarly communities.  We will pursue a better understanding of film and media history and culture in the context of new interdisciplinary 21st-century research goals and methods.


Dartmouth Signs MOU Between Sherman Grinberg Library and Media Ecology Project


Delighted to announce that The Media Ecology Project now enjoys an unique collaborative agreement with The Sherman Grinberg Library to provide historic newsreel footage for courses and student projects at Dartmouth.

The Sherman Grinberg Film Library, located in Los Angeles, California, is the world’s oldest and biggest privately held film archive with over 40 moving image libraries, serving Hollywood and the world film community for more than 75 years.

The Film Library has more than 20 million feet of classic 35mm B&W film with content dating mostly from 1895 to 1957, just before the television era began. The archive includes the historic Paramount Newsreels, first called Eyes of the World (silent era) and later Eyes and Ears of the World (the “talkies”). It also includes the entire American Pathé newsreel library, which is America’s oldest collection (1895-1956), the Industry on Parade series, Allied Artist Scenic stock footage, and over 3,500 mid-century television and movie theater commercials.

This agreement has already been utilized to create new editing assignments in a variety of History/Theory courses at Dartmouth, including a new course sponsored by The Dean of the Faculty at Dartmouth for courses on Racial Inequality, Racial Justice, and/or Anti-Racist Activism.  That course, “The Idea of Africa: Deconstructing Race in the Iconography of a Continent” is currently being co-taught by Professor Ayo Coly, chair of AAAS at Dartmouth and Prof. Mark Williams, director of The Media Ecology Project.

Grinberg materials will also inform the two NEH grants that MEP has received and will bring to culmination later this calendar year.

Many thanks to Lance Watsky at Grinberg for his guidance and enthusiasm in realizing this important project to help understand how these archival materials can be best used in higher education.

We look forward to additional curricular and research projects at Dartmouth that utilize this extremely generous collaboration with The Sherman Grinberg Library!



MEP Essay Published in Digital Humanities Quarterly

Delighted to announce that the detailed overview essay about  The Media Ecology Project written by Mark Williams and John Bell has been published in a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly (15:1, 2021) on the topic of “AudioVisual Data in DH.”

The issue is co-edited by Taylor Arnold, Jasmijn van Gorp, Stefania Scagliola, and Lauren Tilton.  We are grateful for their diligent efforts to make this issue a reality!


“Excavating Footage” international conference March 11-12, 2021

Excavated Footage, US Archives, and Alternative Historiography
A Virtual Workshop Conference, March 11-12, 2021 EST / March 12-13 KST

Organized by Prof. Mark J. Williams (Dartmouth College) and Prof. Han Sang Kim (Ajou University)
Sponsored by National Research Foundation of Korea, “South Korea – U.S. Cooperation Program in Humanities”

A Two-day Workshop
March 11 and March 12, 2021 [7pm to Midnight EST]

During the past decade, emerging scholarship in the fields of history, media studies, qualitative social studies, and area studies have featured new approaches to historiography by excavating, collecting, and analyzing historical film footage and film documentation from archives. However, attention to what new types of historiography will be made possible via archival film footage has rarely been discussed among the scholars involved from diverse geographical and disciplinary backgrounds. This collaborative and international workshop conference aims to establish first steps toward a more comprehensive dialogue among film and media scholars, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and area studies scholars, regarding their approaches and critiques toward alternative historiography through excavated film footage. A key theme of the conference is to raise questions about the positionality of US archives regarding the hierarchy of global archival knowledge regimes.

Conference Schedule: https://footage.ajou.ac.kr/schedule

To register: https://dartgo.org/excavatedfootage


MEP Receives “South Korea-US Cooperation Program in Humanities” Grant

Thanks to the efforts of our colleague Han Sang Kim, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ajou University in South Korea, Prof Mark Williams and MEP have been awarded a “South Korea-US Cooperation Program in Humanities” grant that is funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). In November, 2019, Prof Kim was a member of our panel about USIA/USIS studies at the American Studies Association conference in Honolulu.

The grant is designed to support the organization of an academic event by the two persons named in the grant, one based in South Korea and one in the US. Based on the work Prof Williams has undertaken with MEP in South Korea and in relation to the history of the USIA, he is the designated US scholar.  The event will feature The Media Ecology Project and work to establish long-term approaches to teaching and research in South Korea via MEP.  The grant will enable the invitation of 4 scholars from the US to participate, including Dr. Bret Vukoder (Carnegie Mellon University), and Dr. Hadi Gharabaghi (New York University), Prof Williams, plus multiple scholars from South Korea and Southeast Asia.  The conference will be scheduled for late 2020 or early 2021.

Read More about MEP’s U.S. Information Agency Study here.


Digital Tools for Moving Image Analysis Symposium: May 8-10, 2019

symposium header

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science & The Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth
Digital Tools for Moving Image Analysis Symposium

May 8-10, 2019

This three-day symposium brings together scholars, librarians, archivists, and technologists to discuss current computational methods of research on video and film and brainstorm about future interdisciplinary research. Participants will discuss current research tools and methods for time-based markup of moving images, formal analysis of film properties, machine learning software for object classification and facial tagging, and linguistic analysis of media paratext. This symposium is an extension of two NEH-funded projects underway at MEP: The Accessible Civil Rights Heritage project and the Paper Print and Biograph Compendium. Digital Tools for Moving Image Analysis Symposium: May 8-10, 2019


MEP receives NEH grant to build online resource exploring early cinema history

Paper Print and Biograph Compendium Poster

Dartmouth College’s Media Ecology Project (MEP) has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Advancement to research and publish a diverse set of perspectives on critical films from the late 19th and early 20th century. This research will be led by Prof. Mark Williams (Dartmouth Film & Media Studies), an expert in film and media studies, and Dr. John P. Bell (Dartmouth Research Information, Technology and Consulting), an expert on digital curation. Prof. Williams is the director of and Dr. Bell is the associate director for the Media Ecology Project at Dartmouth.

The Paper Print and Biograph Compendium will produce a collection of data on over 400 select films from the early silent cinema era that document the transition of visual culture from stage to screen. It will combine highly influential and rare works archived in the Paper Print collection of pre-1930 cinema at the Library of Congress with additional American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (Biograph) films preserved at the Library of Congress and the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, plus a digitized version of the Biograph Exhibitors Catalog from The Museum of Modern Art, in order to create a digital resource for film scholars around the world. MEP receives NEH grant to build online resource exploring early cinema history