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The following is a section of current Philosophy INC research into the history of instructional design and technology:

There is inadequate documentation of the current status of documented artifacts created between 1900-1950 by IDT practitioners. This history was documented by Saettler (1953) and Iverson (1953) during the same year. Since this time there have been several other histories of IDT (De Vaney and Butler, 1996; Reiser, 2001a; Reiser, 2001b; Molenda, 2008) but little attention has been paid to the status of documented artifacts that make up this early history.

Beginning a study of the documented artifacts in the early 20th century makes sense because these artifacts can more readily be directly related to IDT. Unlike studies of the drawings in the caves at Lascaux or Comenius’ Orbis Pictus, both of which histories of IDT occasionally mention as having an instructional purpose, by moving into the twentieth century we can more easily relate artifacts to what is now known as IDT because there are clear connections between early and later twentieth century practitioners. For example, The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) evolved out of the Department of Visual Instruction (DVI) and many of the individuals involved in the creation of DVI created numerous artifacts of their own inside and outside the organization: books, pamphlets, instruction, surveys, plans, notes, etc. These artifacts are a part of IDT’s history.

The status of some of these artifacts is clear. For example, an original copy of Anna Verona Dorris’ (1928) Visual Instruction in the Public Schools can be purchased from Amazon and Dorris’ influential book can be found in many libraries. Unfortunately, the fate of other artifacts, such as those created or acquired by C. R. Reagan, is less positive. Reagan was founder and president of the Film Council of America and the first president of the National Association of Visual Education Dealers (Saettler, 1953). Reagan was also Educational Advisor in the Office of War Information. In September of 1948 Paul C. Reed, of the U.S. Office of War Information, spoke of Reagan:
I never knew a man who worked so sincerely for what he believed in than C.R. Reagan. He believed in the power of audiovisual to make this a better world in which to live and he worked tirelessly and selflessly for that cause. (Info Comm, 2014)

Unfortunately, it would be difficult for historians to create a history of Reagan’s work because his personal archives were destroyed before archivists with the National Audio Visual Association could reach them.  In the April 1957 edition of Education Screen and Audio Visual Guide there was a short article titled Archives Request That Came Too Late (Kruse, 1957).  In the article Kruse explained how the National Audio Visual Association (NAVA) had contacted C.R. Reagan’s widow after his death to request that his personal archives be donated to the NAVA because of their interest to historians but those artifacts had recently been destroyed.  In the same article Kruse noted:
The loss of the Reagan papers can never be made up. This loss, like those suffered in the destruction of the files of other giants of our field -Thomas E. Finnegan, William H. Dudley, George Klein among them- can only be minimized by vigorous cooperation on the part of the whole field to prevent similar losses. (p.176)

Finnegan was an educator who worked as director of the educational film production project while with the Eastman Kodak Company, Dudley was a prominent figure in the visual instruction movement and Klein was the publisher of the first educational film catalog to appear in the United States (Saettler, 1990). Klein was promoting silent educational films in New York in the 1920s, Reagan was an educational advisor in the Office of War Information, Dudley edited instructional films for the Ford Motor Company and Finnegan helped to develop a comprehensive series of silent educational films for the Eastman Kodak Company (Saettler, 1990). These men were involved in pioneering efforts in the application of audio-visual instruction and worked in highly influential organizations. Because their personal archives were destroyed, current and future historians may never be able to understand the full impact of their efforts, their connections to other figures, their insights, or view photographic documentation of pioneering their activities.

Fortunately, there are some archives that currently maintain artifacts related to the history of instructional design and technology. At the Department of Audio-Visual Instruction’s (DAVI) Atlantic City Convention in 1951, Dr. E. Winifred Crawford proposed the establishment of an Archives and History Committee and an Archives Library (Moore, 1997).  The archive was started to preserve valuable documents that record the beginnings and the development of the use of audio-visual materials in education, and to make these materials available for researchers.  These efforts evolved into the AECT archive at the University of Maryland, which holds many artifacts related to the history of instructional design and technology. The archives of AECT spans the period from 1912 to 1984, with the bulk of the material dating from 1940 to 1970.  The collection contains correspondence, articles, catalogs, convention material, minutes, reports, pamphlets, serials, teacher guides, bound ledgers and scrapbooks, catalog cards, and audio-visual material (including photographs, audio cassettes, audio reels, slides, and overheads) (Moore, 1997). These artifacts cannot be accessed electronically.

Much of the AECT archive was organized and collected by William Kruse, who was appointed DAVI archivist in 1955 (Lembo, 1970). Among its holdings is an unpublished history of the field by Kruse titled The Projected Image (Kruse, n.d). In the guide to the AECT archive this history is referred to as Kruse’s dissertation but it was not Kruse’s dissertation. A section from The Projected Image was published in the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers under the title Willard Beach Cook: Pioneer Distributor of Narrow-Gage Safety Film and Equipment (Kruse, 1964). In the journal article The Projected Image was described as an, “unpublished book length manuscript” (p. 576). Though Kruse’s unpublished book appears to be extensive, none of the other historians (Saettler, 1953; Iverson, 1953; Lembo, 1970; De Vaney and Butler, 1996; Reiser, 2001a; Reiser, 2001b; Molenda, 2008) in the field referenced it and Kruse’s long history appear to not be very well known.

The AECT archive also houses many interviews with prominent figures in the field. These taped interviews include recordings of Edgar Dale, Dean McClusky, Kenneth Norberg, Elizabeth Golterman and others. However, all artifacts eventually deteriorate.  In Butler and De Vaney’s (1996) history of the field they used many of these recordings but stated, “We looked forward to listening to Dr. McClusky’s audiotape, but it was unclear” (p.13).  Half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever (Kehr, 2010).  An examination of the histories of IDT shows that several of the appendix items listed in the back of Lembo’s (1970) dissertation have deteriorated beyond recognition. These appendix items include photographs of events and minutes. The existence of Fit to Fight (U.S. War Department, 1918), a silent educational film used in large scale research studies (Saettler, 1953), is unknown (Elsheimer & Pifer, 2012). 

The Lee and Lida Cochran Association of Educational Communications and Technology Archive at the University of Northern Illinois is an archive of early instructional technology hardware. This archive houses hundreds of artifacts including equipment such as the Victor Animatograph Cine Projector, several kinds of magic lanterns and a Polyorama Panoptique (Butler & Rabak-Wagener, 2003). The items on display are available for research, teaching, display, demonstration and reflection.

The status of other hardware created by early practitioners and developed by companies such as DeVry, Keystone, Bausch and Lomb or Bell and Howell seems unclear. For example, the Classroom Communicator was a device used to test students in the 1940s (Saettler, 1953). Finding any current information on a Classroom Communicator appears to be difficult while other technologies, such as magic lanterns, can often be found for sale in large numbers on eBay.

Other artifacts related to the history of the field can be found in archives not specifically related to instructional design and technology. For example, an analogue version of George Zook’s  1935 Proposal for the Establishment of an American Film Institute can be found in folder 2131, box 222, subseries 2, series 1 of the General Education Board Archive of the Rockefeller Archive Center. At the time of this proposal’s publication, Zook was president of the American Council on Education and the proposed document was an attempt at standardizing educational films. This archive is analogue, exists in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and currently cannot be viewed from any other location. 

Other artifacts can be found in different locations on the Internet.  Visual Instruction in The Public School (Dorris, 1928) is located onThe Internet Archive. A version of Visual Instruction: Its Value and Its Needs (McClusky, 1931) can be found on the Documents from the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America digital archive. The Wheat Farmer (2014), an educational film from 1938, can be viewed on YouTube. Copies of See and Hear Journal are located on The Internet Archive. The Media History Digital Library provides Portable Document Format copies of Educational Screen from 1922 to 1962. Many of these documents have been digitized by the Prelinger Library, a private library that curates an online collection of public domain materials.

In spite of their efforts to create meaningful artifacts, some of the people involved in the creation of these early artifacts are difficult to find information about. Lorraine Noble, for example, played a part in the educational film movement of the 1930s (Saettler, 1953). Saettler described her involvement at length while De Vaney and Butler (1996) mentioned her only in brief; otherwise information about her seems difficult to find.

Even finding information about IDT historians such as Lembo, Saettler, and Kruse can be difficult. Diane Lembo’s (1970) dissertation, A History of the Growth and Development of the DAVI/NEA from 1923 to 1968, was an extensive study of the development of the DAV. Her study was published in ten parts in Audiovisual Instruction from September 1971 to June/July 1972. However, no information about Lembo’s activity after this could be located.

In order to determine if Paul Saettler was still living several steps were taken: His name was searched for using Google, professors at Virginia Tech were asked if they knew the status of Saettler, obituaries on the Internet were searched, Rebecca Butler was emailed, (R. Butler, personal communication, December 12, 2012) and a phone call was made to Saettler’s publisher. None of these activities helped to determine the status of Paul Saettler. Finally, Robert Reiser was emailed (R. Reiser, personal communication, December 20, 2012. He emailed Michael Molenda (M. Molenda, personal communication, January 2, 2013) who confirmed that Paul Saettler had died in 2003 in Washington State. 

William Kruse was active in the instructional technology movement from the 1930s through the 1970s.   He wrote for and was an advertising representative for Educational Screen, was appointed DAVI archivist in 1955 (Lembo, 1970), and had a section of his history of the field published in the Journal the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (1964). He is noted with frequency in Lembo’s history of the DAVI. But current credible information about Kruse proved difficult to find.
To summarize what is known about some of the documented artifacts related to the history of instructional design and technology:

  • There are known missing archives (Reagan, Finnegan, Dudley and Klein).
  • There are mislabeled and unpublished histories (Kruse).
  • Some sources have deteriorated (McKlusky’s taped interview, Lembo’s dissertation).
  • Some artifacts exist only in analogue format in specific locations.
  • The status of some artifacts is unclear (Fit to Fight).
  • There is limited information on some historical figures.