May 17, 2014

Weighing in on the Kinsey Institute Debate

My argument below is a reinforcement of the following resolution, which was recently posited to the class: "The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University should make the work in its Film Archive more accessible to researchers."

Most problematic about the limitations on the extent to which scholars can access the works of the Kinsey Institute's Film Archive is the fact that they give Kinsey employees free reign to maintain an identity entirely independent from Indiana University, in spite of it having existing offices at that very location. Though it is true enough that the enforcement of the Institute's current policy is (mostly) justifiable from a preservationist perspective, an amendment to said policy is most obviously needed in order to, at the very least, bolster the historical research of the university's resident Film Studies students. 
The principles of a strict upholding of preservational strategy can be maintained if, adjusting policy stipulations accordingly, the Institute's director would deem researchers, serious-minded film journalists, scholars and other individuals who can deliver proof of their qualification were to be exempt from the inaccessibility of original film prints for research. From a practical standpoint, the institute's current two-week notice policy1 in regards to requesting film prints for research is not conducive to the deadline-driven schedule that most people interested in the Institute's resources would live out day-to-day. It seems inevitable that complications would arise from the number of people competing to reserve a print to view, and politics no doubt enter the equation when a decision must be made about whose access takes precedence over another's. 

If unwilling or able to grant unmitigated access to the archives for scholars and other individuals who can make a case to be authorized, the Institute's director, Julia R. Heiman, should, at the bare minimum, resolve students and faculty's lack of intimacy with original prints with more frequent programming that can be overseen by the Institute's employees. Moving toward a fulfillment of the Institute's archives' academic promise, programming should become the rule, not the exception2.

Perhaps it fitting to ask: should courses or theses directly dependent upon unmitigated access to the resources of the archive be vetted by employees at the beginning of each University of Indiana Film Studies student's semester? Further, by limiting access, is the Institute's preservationist bent flying in the face of interdisciplinary practices? Should the Institute be mindful of imposing its protocol on University of Indiana students taking courses on, say, human sexuality, sociology or psychology, who may or may not be concerned with the integrity of a film print so long as their research materials' presentation is simply visible? To all of these, my answer is yes. 

Although preservational concerns, which mostly address the Institute's understandably protective stance in regards to the integrity of its archival prints' physical condition, are undeniably of importance, common sense amendments to the aforementioned policy can honor these concerns while increasing access. To relegate the Kinsey Institute's prints to hermetic isolation is to do them a far greater disservice than placing them in the various hands of researchers of different professional and academic backgrounds ever would. 


1.) "The Kinsey Institute - [Libraries & Special Collections]." The Kinsey Institute. The Kinsey Institute. Web. <>.

2.) Rosen, Stephen. "Kinsey Institute Still a Touchy Subject." Los Angeles Times, 30 Dec. 2010. Web. <>. Note: My argument for increased frequency of programming for IU students and faculty at the Kinsey Institute is, in part, a counter to Kinsey's director of library and archives Liana Zhou's "preference" to "not really [offer] regular programming" in the article cited here. 

Maxwell L. Weinstein

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