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Ohio River Valley history

Ball State University students
put camera’s eye on Madison

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

(January 2007) – When it comes to history, Madison, Ind., is well-known. From its recent designation as a National Historic Landmark District to its key role in the Underground Railroad movement and its location as a historical river town, the city could be a case study for the development of towns across the country. That is exactly what a group of students from Ball State University thought, too.
A new, six-part educational film series, “An Overview of the Ohio River Valley,” documents the history of Madison from the first settlers in the area to the modern era. All six episodes were shown in November at a special showing at the Ohio Theatre in Madison. Each DVD is between 15 and 20 minutes long and chronicles a different aspect of Madison’s history.
The series is actually part of a Ball State University history education project and was part of a $500,000 Teaching American History grant provided to the university by the U.S. Department of Education.
Ball State University Professor Ron Morris said Madison was used as a case study to illustrate historical trends throughout the country, from the westward migration and the founding of Madison to the modern day.
The series includes information about the founding of the river town, the historic architecture, founding families, the Civil War and abolition and modern aspects of Madison history.
A variety of methods were used to discuss the history during the film, including historical re-enactments featuring founding members of the community, a compilation of historic photos, interviews with current Madisonians, narrations and animated photography.
Morris said Madison School Corp., in conjunction with Historic Madison Inc., Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, and the Ball State History Department applied for the grant.
The grant is used for educating teachers on teaching history. As part of the project, teachers throughout the Ohio Valley are invited to come together for seminars and summer workshops on teaching history. The teachers who participate receive graduate credits for attending.
The DVDs about Madison were created as resource materials for teachers in the area. A copy of the DVDs will be sent to area schools, and a set will be available in February at the Madison-Jefferson Public library for the public to check out and view.
Morris said three Ball State students, Julian Dalrymple, Matthew Hill and Travis Harvey, were instrumental in making the DVDs. Dalrymple and Hill were co-producers and directors on the project, while Harvey was the art director. Steve Bell, a former television news correspondent who now is a professor at Ball State, was the host of the videos and gave the introduction and closing.
Hill said the production crew spent months researching the history of Madison through the library and other places, including the Jefferson County Historical Society, and people came from everywhere to help.
He said the production crew had complete creative control, with license to do what they wanted, but the content of the film was outlined by Morris. “It was a great experience and a lot of fun learning the inside and out of film making,” he said.
He said the endeavor taught him about teamwork and communicating in depth with a crew. Hill graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and is now working for CMC Media in Indianapolis.
Co-producer and director Dalrymple agreed it was a great experience. He said some of the challenges included finding sources for the research. “We had to rely on folklorists from the area to get some of the information.”
Another challenge he said was putting the information together into six separate videos and deciding what to include in them.
He said working with an experience veteran like Steve Bell was slightly intimidating at first, but Bell really gave excellent advice and was extremely helpful.
Dalrymple also graduated with a bachlor’s degree in telecommunications and is currently looking for work. He would love to relocate to a major city like Chicago, New York or San Francisco.
Harvey said the project was a very large project for the three of them to handle, but they were proud they accomplished their goal. He said he met with a wonderful collage of people all passionate about helping the documentary
He also said, “During the production of the documentary series, it felt as if we received the ‘town-key’ because we had access to so many wonderful parts of the city and its history.”
Harvey had graduated with a degree in Fine Art Design (Visual Communications) before the project began, so he came back to Muncie to help. He says his long term goal is to become a professor.
Morris said the Ball State History Department is more than willing to work with other school corporations that request an application to be a part of the project.

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