Preserving human history one digital file at a time

Indiana University is home to a collection of nearly half a million historical video, sound, and film recordings. It includes rare oral histories and performances, endangered and extinct languages, and remarkable moments in popular culture.

In an effort to rescue these treasures from the hands of time—many are now on obsolete formats and actively degrading—we’ve launched the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI), a $27M project to digitally preserve the collection, add extensive metadata, and make much of it available online. 

MDPI is the largest university-led media digitization project in higher ed and the country.

$27Min project funding

2020year of project completion

89%of the way complete

Digitizing the human experience in all its forms

The materials we’re digitizing come in more than 20 media formats and date back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In many instances the materials reveal hidden insights about popular narratives, or stand as the official record of tradition for cultures long lost to history.

  1. Jan. 1, 1944


    In this short film, the United States Fifth Army—the first American field army to be activated outside of the U.S.—reports about life on the beachhead as they fight German forces during World War II.

    Watch the film
  2. Jan. 1, 1952


    The legacy brand Alka-Seltzer shifts away from radio advertising to television advertising; by the 1970s, Advertising Age ranks their TV ads as some of the best in the country.

    See an early Alka-Seltzer ad
  3. Jan. 1, 1953


    A cultural icon is born when Baskin-Robbins hires Carson-Roberts Advertising, who recommends adopting the number 31 to define and differentiate their brand.

    Watch the animated ad
  4. Jan. 1, 1957


    An interview featuring a prisoner and a warden reveals a hidden power structure between U.S. prison inmates, and why it persists.

    See the interview
  5. Jan. 1, 1962


    A short scripted film reveals what suburban residents think about motorcycles, and offers tips for motorcyclists about riding laws and etiquette.

    Watch the film
  6. Jan. 1, 1966


    A recorded group discussion shows a PTA president, a minister, a restaurant owner, a county sheriff, and others sharing their concerns about venereal disease and juvenile delinquency.

    Watch the conversation
  7. Jan. 1, 1970


    A short, partially animated educational documentary explores the secrets of Mercury, and how its used in modern life.

    Watch the documentary
  8. Jan. 1, 1975


    A partially scripted documentary shows the emotional, psychological, and socioeconomic effects of adult illiteracy.

    View the documentary

Indiana University is moving the world forward

Planning for responsible space travel

Can Mars sustain life? We’re about to find out. But first, IU astrobiologist Lisa Pratt is making sure it’s safe to explore.

Meet NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer

Reversing the opioid epidemic

Our country is facing an unprecedented opioid addiction crisis. At Indiana University, we’re doing something about it.

See our comprehensive approach

At IU we go all in

Our pledge to preserve human history is only the beginning.

The IU School of Medicine is the largest in the country, committed to reinventing health care standards around the world. The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies teaches more languages than any other American university to prepare graduates for meaningful global engagement. 

The Jacobs School of Music produces legendary musicians, while #1-ranked programs from the Kelley School of Business and the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs prepare tomorrow’s brightest minds for tomorrow’s biggest challenges.

Indiana University is one of the nation’s leading research institutions, and our 200-year pursuit of advancing knowledge and nurturing creativity gains momentum every day.