Project Notes

My mission for this research project was to gain a more accurate picture of Mary Hillaire, the Native American Studies program and its relationship with the Evergreen State College. Digitizing audiovisual material is time consuming and detail oriented work. Along with the inherent ambient noise levels of cassette tapes from the early seventies, there are also humming room tones, crying children and loud sleepers that made their way onto the recordings. Speakers and topics are rarely introduced, which can make the tapes difficult to gain historical insight.

In order to counteract these elements, I developed a process for lowering ambient noise frequencies, increasing the vocal frequency and limiting the audio so that there wouldn’t be seismic shifts whenever someone bumped a table that Mary had set the microphone down on. I also reached out to faculty members with audio samples to see if they could recognize unidentified speakers. It is also worth noting that, while I have worked through over 60 hours of material in the collection, this is roughly only three percent of the total audio and video material in the Mary Ellen Hillaire Papers collection. That being said, this was the maximum amount of research that the scope of this project allowed.

I chose my materials by focusing on the formative years of the Native American Studies program from 1970 to 1975. The audio and visual media used in this exhibit is culled from the Mary Ellen Hillaire Papers collection and also includes historic photos from the Evergreen See.Evergreen.Edu archive as well as supplementary materials in the form of interviews, scholarly journals and the excellent Lummi history books published by author Anne Nugent in the early eighties. Photos included in this collection have been retouched and the two video clips from Mary Hillaire’s home videos have been edited in order to focus on aspects of the domestic life on the Lummi reservation in the 1950’s.

The score for the audio version of this exhibit was created by implementing audio from the cassettes in the collection. They are the clicks and pops of the cassettes before the recording starts from six different tapes. This was inspired by Mary talking about finding musicality in "the clanging of an old, stupid machine," referring to her constant companion, the tape recorder.


Andrew Weymouth, 2019