The best year to create a comprehensive history of the Campus Theatre would have been 1941 — the year it opened. 77 years later and it’s a little more challenging.
5 weeks into the summer research and I seem to learn something new about the shape of my project every day. One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is how in-depth I could be getting while digitizing this cinema’s history. What facets of the history of the theater will receive the most attention? For a while it seemed like the only answer to this question was, “I’m not sure yet. I’m trying to figure it out by the end of the week.” After many of these weeks in digital scholarship limbo, I think I’ve come up with an answer.
As one might expect, an obstacle that I face on a day-to-day basis is finding data in archives and newspaper articles relevant to my research. What a project of this scale needs is time and though the eight weeks that the program affords might not be enough to cover the entire history of the Campus Theatre in as much depth as I’d like, it does allow for a more focused study into a smaller time frame of the theater’s history.
After giving it much thought, my research will now be focused on The Campus Theatre’s first five years of existence with special attention paid to its role in the war effort during World War II and the implications of the programming at the time. In digitizing the first year of screenings at the Campus Theatre, one can see a trend in the type of films they began to show as the war escalated with more and more war-related films being shown subsequent to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
In changing the scope I hope to use the tools and resources associated with digital scholarship to present and visualize a more meaningful set of data represented in these first five years than I could have done with the first seven decades of the theatre’s history in the allotted time frame. The goal of my research is now centered around more so discovering more about what types of films were being produced during this time period, what types of films were being sent to a small single-screen art deco theatre in central Pennsylvania and what this says about film production, distribution and exhibition during this period. My research will also present the types of things that the Campus Theatre did to assist the war effort. In its first year after its founding, it held many U.S.O. events and was an outlet where war bonds and stamps were sold.
As of now, I am excited to see what other information this period of time tells us about our history.