Goalposts and Clarinets: Exploring Media Collections at Northwestern University


This interview is with Stefan Elnabli, Moving Image and Sound Preservation Specialist at Northwestern University. Stefan obtained a degree in audiovisual preservation from New York University's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at Tisch School of the Arts. His work with archival media includes stints in the WNET Channel 13 Digital Archive, Anthology Film Archives, and major university libraries such as New York University and Stanford University.


What video and audio collections are you considering putting into Avalon?

The first two major collections we put into Avalon are the Northwestern University Football Films collection and the Robert Marcellus Master Class Audio Archives.


Our football films collection comprises 16mm films shot between the years of 1929 and 1989. The last reel count I received from University Archives was 2,425, but new ones trickle in periodically. The initial selection of games from this collection to go into Avalon totals 50, and they are some of the most important games in Wildcats history. Some of the highlights include a 1949 Rose Bowl victory, a 1936 homecoming game against Minnesota that contains entertaining university-promotion footage, and the infamous “lake the posts” game where inspired fans celebrate a Wildcats victory by hoisting one of the goal posts and marching it into Lake Michigan!


Minnesota game, 1936. A Wildcats homecoming tradition, striking fear into the hearts of their opponents.

Northern Illinois game, 1982. Victory! Excited Wildcats fans rush the field pull out the goal post from the ground to march it into Lake Michigan.


Our Robert Marcellus Master Class Audio Archives consists of 131 ¼” open reel audiotapes that have been digitized for preservation and access. These tapes document a series of Northwestern University master classes held by the American classical clarinetist Robert Marcellus from 1977 through 1990. The highlight of this unique collection is hearing the live teachings of an American clarinet master.


Who will be able to access those collections in Avalon?

We are happy to say that these collections will be publicly available. Not only will users be able to watch and listen, they will be able to learn about the collections through descriptive metadata that we provide in the Avalon interface. We hope these collections will be a source of casual enjoyment as well as valuable information for research and learning.


What are some unique or interesting items in your media collections?

The Football Films Collection and Robert Marcellus Master Class Archives are certainly unique and interesting. We have many archival collections of film, video, and audio that also fit that description. Due to copyright concerns, not all of them will be publicly accessible without restriction. I would say that two recently preserved collections that are particularly interesting and unique are the Abe Peck and Joan Goodman audio interview collections comprising some 700 celebrity interviews conducted by prolific journalists Abe Peck and Joan Goodman throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I’m particularly fascinated by interview styles of journalists and radio hosts, so this collection is one of my recent favorites.


How will Avalon help you achieve your preservation and access goals?

We consider preservation to be a holistic process that includes conservation, digitization, restoration, and access. Avalon assists us in fulfilling our preservation mission because if we did not have Avalon, providing access to our growing digital collections in a well-managed and user-friendly way would be increasingly difficult. We feel that some of the most attractive aspects of Avalon are granular access control, schema-based metadata support, and adaptable user roles to accommodate any number of workflows. Northwestern has never had a system as rich and versatile as Avalon, so we are very excited to see it go into production in 2014!