Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ethnographic Video Online


Today I've been browsing one of our new databases, Ethnographic Video Online from Alexander Street Press, and I must say I think our professors (particularly those teaching history, sociology and religion) are going to find it very useful! When complete, this collection is going to have more than 1,000 films and more than 750 hours of streaming video. According to the publisher, this database provides the largest and most comprehensive resource for the study of human behavior. Every region of the world is covered, and the collection features the work of many of the most influential documentary filmmakers of the 20th century, including John Marshall, Timothy Asch, Robert Gardner, David MacDougall, John Bishop and David Plath, among others. You can find not only completed films but also interviews, previously unreleased raw footage and field recordings.

The database is searchable by culture, geographic area, subject type (for example, colonialism or gender roles), content type (for example, a documentary or an interview), date or ethnographer's name. The films are accompanied by a searchable, synchronized transcript. There are playlists (for example, one covers the work of Margaret Mead) with study guides included, or you can make your own playlist. You can even edit your own clips from the featured videos and add them to a playlist. You can annotate your playlist and share it with a static URL for watching in class or as an out-of-class assignment. This is a great alternative to putting films on reserve in the library.

I experimented first by searching for videos related to Oceania, thinking ahead to our next "Year Of," and found a fascinating documentary about the people of New Guinea. New Guinea was one of the last places on earth to be colonized by Europeans, and this particular film, aptly named "First Contact," told about the indigenous people's first contact with outsiders, with eyewitness testimony from both sides. I've browsed several other videos on this site, and I really recommend you take a look. This could be an exceptionally useful resource. How will you use it?

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