In a joint effort between UH’s Center for Public History and the UH Digital Library, the UH Memories project has presented its first documentary surrounding the history of the University and its relationship with the greater Houston area entitled “University of Houston, War and Growth, 1939-1950.”
“(The project is a) cross-departmental collaboration at the University of Houston aimed at producing a digital photo documentary that chronicles the history of the University as the people’s university, as it approaches its 85 year anniversary,” said Michele Reilly, head of Digital Service and one of the directors and writers for the UH Memories project.
The free film, available on the UH website, discusses the effect World War II had on the University through photos, voice-overs and interviews with prominent UH alumni such as Judge Shearn Smith and GSL Welcome Group chairman Welcome Wilson Sr., who both attended the University during the WWII era.
The 30-minute-long film documents how UH, a tuition-funded school at the time, adjusted to life during the war and the possibility of losing enrollment.
“It should say something about the spirit of the University of Houston that when it became obvious that we would be short of students during the war, we had an opportunity to serve the country and a variety of schools, and we put on a Navy training program, and we had some aviation work and two or three other programs during the war,” saidCharles Hiller, UH bursar at the time of the war in the film.
According to the video, the war and the part UH played in Houston during the time propelled the school into the future.
The video aims to offer a more interesting way to learn UH’s history than a trip to the library to read a musty book.
“What we’re trying to do is harness the unique talents and ingenuity of the university students, staff and faculty and to use the campus resources and support scholarships through digital humanities,” Reilly said.
“Using this new digital medium that we’re able to do now, we can integrate the memories of our alumni, our students and our faculty,” he said.
The UH Memories project was founded in fall 2011, the brainchild of the Center for Public History and UH Libraries. Future documentaries will discuss subjects such as the desegregation of the University and the greater Houston area as a whole.
“This was all done collaboratively,” Reilly said.
“We really felt like this was a great opportunity for our students to do historical research, to do writing for film, to making a film. We just wanted to make it a uniquely university product. The video cameras were checked out from the library … the voice actors were all university faculty, students and staff.”