August 1970 marked the origin of Geographers on Film (GOF). Participants speak for the record (varying from ten to eighty minutes) that samples of the geographical experience are maintained. The project resulted from teaching thought and methodology courses; students therein would pore over the writings of cognoscenti to acquire an appreciation for the genesis and development of geography as a field of learning. After considering the advantages of having Aristotle on film it was decided to secure in a permanent medium something of the more fertile minds of modern geography. In the beginning concentration was on elder statespersons, thus coverage spans much of 20th Century Century geography. The series includes 497 productions - 278 film and videotape interviews of the thought and reflections of 252 geographers (137 hours), plus 219 Additional Holdings (113) featuring distinctive themes (varying from 3 to 196 minutes) and embody 103 supplemental geographers expanding the number to 351 geogarphers incorporated within GOF. Fifty-four of the GOF films/videos are multiple interviews of twenty-six selected individuals (e. g. Richard Hartshorne,1972, 1978, 1979, 1986A, 1986B). The complete GOF series (250 hours) has been converted to the readily accessible VHS format and is available through rental. (See List of Interviews)
GOF was initially conceived as a vehicle for collecting archival footage for specific use in my seminar on the history of geographic thought. It did not occur to me at the time that this act of filming individuals was a variation of oral history (self-generated primary source material). Modifying a phrase of the late Allan Nevins of Columbia, noted historian and founder of oral history, the series stores geography in the deep freeze (Rumics 1966, 602). One is reminded of Nevins' recollection of Dr. Johnson's quote:
A curious thought has occurred to me. In the grave we shall receive no letters.
It was equally true, Nevins reflected, that from the grave no letters are sent (Nevins 1966, 600). He would scan the obituaries of the New York papers and observe:
What memories that man carries with him into total oblivion.
Motivated by such thoughts and the frustrations of research, Nevins conceived oral history as a valuable tool for the recording of events prior to the death of the principals. Table 1 listing fifty-one Geographers on Film conveys the exponential value of the series.
Deceased Interviewees Life Span Interview Year(s) --------------------------------------------------------- Jan O. M. Broek (1904-1974) 1970 Carl O. Sauer (1889-1975) 1970 Andrew H. Clark (1911-1975) 1971 Edward L. Ullman (1912-1976) 1972 G. Etzel Pearcy (1905-1980) 1973 Karl J. Pelzer (1909-1980) 1976 James Anderson (1919-1980) 1978 Merle C. Prunty, Jr. (1917-1982) 1973 Wilma Fairchild (1915-1983) 1971 J. E. Spencer (1907-1984) 1970 John House (1919-1984) 1982 Hallock F. Raup (1901-1985) 1973 Mary McRae Colby (1899-1985) 1972 John B. Leighly (1895-1986) 1970 Preston E. James (1899-1986) 1970,1979,1984 Harold H. McCarty (1901-1987) 1971 Theodore Shabad (1922-1987) 1981 T. W. Freeman (1908-1988) 1982 William Warntz (1922-1988) 1973 G. Donald Hudson (1897-1989) 1971 J. Alfred Steers (1899-1989) 1982 Samuel N. Dicken (1901-1989) 1978 Clarence J. Glacken (1909-1989) 1980 Clyde F. Kohn (1911-1989) 1971 George Kish (1914-1989) 1976 George W. Hoffman (1914-1990) 1987 J. Wreford Watson (1915-1990) 1982 Clarence F. Jones (1893-1991) 1972 Richard Hartshorne (1899-1992) 1972,1978,1979,1986 Ella O. Keene (1902-1992) 1981 Homer Aschmann (1920-1992) 1981 Edward J. Miles (1926-1992) 1983 Fred B. Kniffen (1900-1993) 1976 Raymond E. Crist (1904-1993) 1973 Hildegard Binder Johnson (1908-1993) 1976,1986 Kenneth Boulding (1910-1993) 1983 Shannon McCune (1913-1993) 1973 Jean Gottmann (1915-1994) 1982 Harold A. Mayer (1916-1994) 1972,1983 Barry Bishop (1932-1994) 1986 F. Webster McBryde (1908-1995) 1995 George F. Jenks (1916-1996) 1989 Melvin G. Marcus (1929-1997) 1976,1996 James J. Parsons (1915-1997) 1973 J. Rowland Illick (1919-1997) 1985 Kirk H. Stone (1914-1997) 1973 William D. Pattison (1921-1997) 1975 Meredith F. Burrill (1902-1997) 1972 Alice C. Andrews (1928-1998) 1992 Robert P. Beckinsale (1908-1999) 1975 Leslie Hewes (1906-1999) 1973 James E. Vance, Jr. (1925-1999) 1981 --------------------------------------------------------------------
Unaware of Nevins' oral history Geographers on Film began as a vehicle for the recording of geographers ruminating about their craft. In August of 1970, when the first session was filmed in Carl Sauer's office at Berkeley, little did one anticipate that 277 more interviews would follow during the next twenty-nine years. See Attachment for a complete list of 278 GOF interviews.
Prior to this occasion I had written to Preston James, my mentor on geographic thought and methodology at Syracuse during the early 1960s. I requested his assistance in obtaining Sauer's consent to be interviewed on film at the next annual meeting in San Francisco. Jimmy gently suggested that I, a relative neophyte, might have more luck than he in gaining assent to explore Sauer's personal reflections.
To entice Sauer, Jimmy thought I should mention Sauer's research on Ratzel - thinking that such an interview would provide a vehicle for Sauer to share his findings. I complied and Sauer responded that he would be happy to participate, but that I would have to come to Berkeley as he was not going to San Francisco.
The writer recalls the anxiety as Preston and Eileen James and I headed across the bay from the annual meeting to meet with Sauer. I remember being concerned about the technical problems of shooting the interview in 16mm film and wonder ing if the final product would justify the effort, vindicate the format, and offer special insight into Sauer and his life-work.
Back in San Franciso James and I were the subject of curiosity as six others joined in the inaugural effort. Those interviewed that first year included Jan Broek, George Carter, Preston James, Walter Kollmorgen, John Leighly, and Clyde Patton. While being observed handling the equipment in the halls and meeting rooms, as well as discussing the idea of filming with potential interviewees, colleagues looked on and asked how copies could be obtained for use in their departments. Such details had yet to be considered.
From a modest beginning a small grant to expand the series was received from the National Science Foundation in 1973. In 1981, additional grants allowed for the conversion of the series to color video, and in 1984 another NSF grant was provided to initiate transcription of the series.
During the early days of production the technical quality of the interviews was not on par with professional standards. With conversion of the series to color-video in 1982 the audio and visual richness of the presentation has been considerably enhanced.
Complementing the individual interviews GOF has produced 219 Additional Holdings (113 hours) of more depth, most being videotaped at AAG paper sessions and symposia. See Attachment for a listing of Additional Holdings. As in the case of the interviews Additional Holdings copies are deposited with the Association Archives, which are part of the American Geographical Society collection at the Golda Meier Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The 250 hours of GOF are an evolutionary product of five mediums: 16mm monochrome film, one inch monochrome reel to reel videotape, 16mm kineo (one inch videotape reprocessed on to 16mm film), 1/2 inch monochrome reel to reel video tape, and 1/2 inch color VHS. All of the series has been converted to the readily accessible VHS format.
To complement GOF, twelve thematic video presentations have been developed:
1. "Mr. Sauer: Mentor and Disciples" (1989). 2. "The QR: Reflections about the Quantitative Revolution in American Geography" (1989). 3. "Women Geographers on Film I - A Retrospective: Survival in the Male-dominated Academe (1991). 4. "Women Geographers on Film II: Retrospective (WGOF I), Plus Commentary (1991). 5. "Harvard in the 40s: Recollections of the Demise" (1993). 6. "Geographers on Film - The First Quarter Century: A Silver Anniversary Sampler" (1994) 7. "Diffusion of Geographic Education, K-PhD I" (1997). 8. "Early 20th Century Harvard Geographers (1997). 9. "Wallace W. Atwood: Clark Monadnock of the 1920s" (1997). 10. "Diffusion of Geographic Education (K-PhD) II, I Plus Commentary (1998). 11. "Interviews of Berkeley Students: 1932-1950" (1999). 12. "Interviews of Berkeley Faculty: 1950-1999" (1999). The process involves electronically splicing segments of individual GOF interviews into productions following a specific theme.
More than 2260 separate showings of GOF films and videos have been viewed by seminars and special programs at 265 colleges and universities throughout Anglo America and several other countries.
To minimize travel and reduce costs the interviews are usually produced at AAG annual meetings. The whole is a non- profit, low budget venture (the Director-Editor is not remunerated). Rental fees fund the production of several new interviews a year. It takes fifteen minutes to process a rental order for one film or videotape. If one assumes a typical forty-hour work week, over the years the energy devoted to handling orders is equivalent to two and a half months of time.
GOF, as an archival source, is significant to scholars who seek to understand the genesis of geographic thought and the milieu in which geographic ideas flourish. The series has merit for those seeking to understand: (l) the evolution of 20th Century geography, (2) something of the maturation of scientific careers, and (3) the organizational structure and setting in which the discipline has developed.
GOF expands the awareness of the formative ideas of contemporary geographers, specific research strategies, and the organizational development of the discipline. Each interview is structured to include a variety of observations which frequently concern the morphology of learning environments, (including mentors and fellow graduate students), discussions concerning department histories, overviews of research, summaries of contributions, and consideration of future trends.
GOF Graduating Interview Faculty Person Year Degree Year Status ----------------------------------------------------------------- Carl Sauer 1915 PhD 1970 Clarence Jones 1923 PhD 1972 Richard Hartshorne 1924 PhD 1972,1978 1979,1986A 1986B Donald Hudson 1934 PhD 1971 Chauncy Harris 1940 PhD 1971,1986 Yes Nicholas Helburn 1940 BA 1972 John Brush 1942 BA 1986 Edward Ullman 1942 PhD 1972 Gilbert White 1942 PhD 1972,1984 Yes Harold Mayer 1943 PhD 1972,1983 Yes Edward Espenshade 1944 PhD 1972,1993 Yes Norton Ginsburg 1949 PhD 1971,1995 Yes Allen Philbrick 1949 PhD 1986 Yes Guido Weigend 1949 PhD 1988 James Blaut 1950 BSC 1975 Robert A. Harper 1950 PhD 1996 Edward Taaffe 1952 PhD 1971 Richard Thoman 1953 PhD 1980 William Pattison 1957 PhD 1975 Yes Mary McRae Colby 1958 PhD 1972 Ian Burton 1962 PhD 1973 Robert Kates 1962 PhD 1995 Allen Pred 1962 PhD 1980 Melvin Marcus 1963 PhD 1976,1996 David Hill 1964 PhD 1973 William A. Koelsch 1966 PhD 1998 Thomas Saarinen 1966 PhD 1992 Shue Tick Wong 1968 PhD 1998 Joseph Stoltman 1969 MA 1997 Sarah Myers 1971 PhD 1976 Sarah Bednarz 1974 MA 1996 Robert Bednarz 1975 PhD 1997 Susan Cutter 1976 PhD 1997 Barry Bishop 1980 PhD 1986 Brian Berry 1971 Yes Marvin Mikesell 1971,1994 Yes Philip Wagner 1973,1994 Yes Karl Butzer 1980 Yes Michael Conzen 1995 Yes -----------------------------------------------------------------
TABLE 3: GEOGRAPHERS ON FILM 37 BERKELEY CONNECTIONSGOF Graduating Interview Faculty Person Year Degree Year Status ----------------------------------------------------------------- John B. Leighly 1927 PhD 1970 Yes Fred B. Kniffen 1930 PhD 1976 Samuel N. Dicken 1931 PhD 1978 Clarence J. Glacken 1931 PhD 1980 Yes Daniel B. Luten 1933 PhD 1981 Yes Halock F. Raup 1935 PhD 1973 Joseph E. Spencer 1936 PhD 1970 Leslie Hewes 1940 PhD 1973 F. Webster McBryde 1940 PhD 1979 George F. Carter 1942 PhD 1970 Andrew H. Clark 1944 PhD 1971 Robert C. West 1946 PhD 1973 James J. Parsons 1948 PhD 1973 Yes Clarrisa T. Kimber 1949 AB 1986 Edward T. Price, Jr. 1950 PhD 1973 David Lowenthal 1950 MA 1983 Edmond H. Hammond 1951 PhD 1973 Clyde P. Patton 1953 PhD 1970 Wilber Zelinsky 1953 PhD 1971,1984 Homer Aschmann 1954 PhD 1981 H. J. Walker 1954 MA 1986 Philip L. Wagner 1955 PhD 1973,1994 Yi-Fu Tuan 1957 PhD 1972,1996 Carl L. Johannessen 1959 PhD 1991 Marvin W. Mikesell 1959 PhD 1971,1994 William M. Denevan 1963 PhD 1988 J. Richard Peet 1968 PhD 1975 C. L. (Kit) Salter 1970 PhD 1987 Carl Sauer 1970 Yes Jan O. M. Broek 1970 TA (c.1935) Karl J. Pelzer 1976 TA (c.1936) James E. Vance, Jr. 1981 Yes David J. M. Hooson 1980 Yes Allen R. Pred 1980 Yes Risa I. Palm 1974 Yes Peter Hall 1982 Yes David R. Stoddart 1979 Yes ---------------------------------------------------------------------
Inspection of Tables 2 and 3, (Geographers on Film associated with the University of Chicago, and University of California-Berkeley) denotes the potential of departmental reflections (e. g. Chicago - from Sauer to Cutter and Bishop) as grist for historical analysis of learning environments. Note the departmental cross-over of Mikesell, Pred, Sauer, and Wagner
By way of deposition of GOF copies with the AAG Archives the series will be available to future generations of geographers. By this act there is no longer concern about the collection of original films and video tapes being lost to fire or flood.
Selected interview transcriptions have been published. One ponders the advantages of having GOF transcribed and aable for easier access to scholars, indexed by person and topic to permit cross referral among interviews. Consider the material waiting to be mined. Affirming the series contains a wealth of substantive material inquiries are received seeking to identify details of a person's career, special cognizance into points of view, or principal events within the history of twentieth century geography. See recent memorials and papers for pertinent GOF citations (Denevan, 1987, Martin, 1988, 1989, 1994, and Mikesell, 1987).
As a genre of oral history, GOF shares an implicit belief that by interviewing contemporary scholars - both data and insight (that might nowhere exist) will be preserved for generations of geographers yet to be. Louis Starr, colleague and co-worker of Nevins, observed:
...the end product of oral history is not oral, not history. It is typed transcript...indexed and bound...with a view to contributing something of value to the record...(It) may be the hitherto unrecorded story of the narrator's life...or it may be a (relevant) single phase or episode or relationship in that life...(Starr 1971, 276).
Interpretations of the history of geography are brought into clearer focus as scholars assess how geographic knowledge is gained and how trends of thought are adopted or discarded. Such vehicles contain data relevant to the individuals being interviewed (plus those with whom they interact) and reflect the contextual climates in which their contributions were nurtured. Occasionally morsels surface as the subjects relive a crucial moment in their career, or a turning point in their development.
Joe B. Frantz of the University of Texas was an associate of Walter Prescott Webb, who during the early 1960s directed the video series American Civilization by its Interpreters. Frantz has suggested that the film/video interview
...may relate a life story so candidly and with such insight..that it's value will be obvious (Starr 1971, 291).
Paraphrasing Frantz, geographers are made, not born, as these glimpses into a life path vividly reveal. (Frantz 1969, 93).
The late historian of science, George Sarton, believed that learning about the individual is vital to understanding the history of science:
Discoveries are evanescent for they are soon replaced by better ones. The historian must try not only to describe those evanescent discoveries but to find in science that which is timeless...It is the historian's main duty to revive the personalities, rather than to enumerate their scientific discoveries. Discoveries may be important, but personalities are infinitely more so. (Sarton 1948, 19).
EPILOGUEIn summary, the final transcribed product will be a vital resource for those seeking to understand (l) the contemporary evolution of geographic science, (2) the fostering of academic careers and (3) those milieux in which the development of a discipline seem to thrive.
Reflecting upon Webb's American Civilization video series, Frantz had this to say about the significance of the project:
...the parade passed, forth - one of them, not a single one less than a person. Each with his difference, but each notable as a man who has worked and who has thought...I think that we have captured something that will be more valuable a generation, a century from now than it is currently (Frantz 1969, 96).
One need not wait one hundred years to sample this trove of archival wealth relating to disciplinal circumstances and ideas. Through the medium of video our colleagues are here today, tomorrow, and beyond.
ReferencesDenevan, William M., ed. 1987. Observations on trade and gold in the early Spanish Main, Carl Sauer. In Carl O. Sauer, a tribute, ed. Martin S Kenzer, pp.164-174. Corvalis: Oregon State University Press Frantz, Joe B. 1969. Video-taping notable historians. In The Third National Colloquium on Oral History, 1968, ed. Gould P. Colman, pp. 89-101. New York: The Oral History Associa- tion. Martin, Geoffrey J. 1988. Preston E. James, 1899-1986. Annals, Association of American Geographers, 78: 164-175. . 1989. The Nature of Geography and the Schaefer- Hartshorne Debate. Reflections on Richard Hartshorne's The Nature of Geography. Occasional Publications of the Association of American Geographers: 69-90. . 1994. Richard Hartshorne, 1899-1992. Annals, Associa- tion of American Geographers, 84. Mikesell, Marvin W. 1987. Sauer and "sauerolgy": a student's perspective. In Carl O. Sauer, a tribute, ed. Martin S Kenzer, pp.144-150. Corvalis: Oregon State University Press. Nevins, Allan. 1966. Oral history: How and why it was born. Wilson Library Bulletin 40: 600-601. Rumics, Elizabeth. 1966. Oral history: Defining the term. Wilson Library Bulletin 40: 602-605. Sarton, George. 1948. The history of medicine versus the history of art. In The life of science, pp. 15-28. New York: Henry Schuman. Starr, Louis M. 1971. Oral history: Problems and prospects. In Advances in Librarianship, 2, ed. Melvin J. Voight, pp. 275-304. New York and London: Seminar Press Inc.
See ( List of 278 Interviews)
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