Indiana University

Indiana University School of Journalism

School team creating multimedia for Pyle museum website

SoJ Web Report | May 30, 2013
lanning and mann
Photo by Bonnie Layton
Blake Lanning and Sehvilla Mann are working on video for the Ernie Pyle museum website. Lecturer Bonnie Layton is overseeing the project.
By Mary S. Kenney, School of Journalism Web Reporter

A wooden sign in Dana, Ind., advertises its name in bold red letters outlined in blue. Under the town’s name, the sign boasts in black, “Hometown of Ernie Pyle.”

Pyle was a famous war correspondent during World War II. The movie, The Story of G.I. Joe, is based on his dispatches, he won the Pulitzer Prize, and President Harry S. Truman issued a statement upon his death. But his museum in Dana is far from popular with casual visitors.

IU faculty and students want to change that.

Lecturer Bonnie Layton, graduate student Sehvilla Mann and senior Blake Lanning recently traveled to Dana to photograph and record sights and sounds of the museum. They plan to post these projects on the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum website to attract viewers.

“I’m hoping it will encourage people to actually go there and visit,” Mann said. “We’re definitely not trying to replace the museum with the website. It’s quite the opposite.”

Their plan is to add video, audio and photo content to the website by the end of this summer.

Mann is creating a panorama view of the museum to be displayed on the website. She also took still photos and recorded question-and-answer sessions with museum staff. Website visitors will be able to view questions on the website and click on audio recordings to hear museum staff’s answers.

“They’re so passionate,” Mann said of the staff. “We feel if people can visit the website and hear their voices, it will give them that better experience.”

The Ernie Pyle museum was cut from government funding and temporarily closed in 2009, and state officials took many of the museum’s artifacts – Pyle’s typewriter, jacket and passport, for example – to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. The Dana museum now relies on donations and purchases from the gift shop.

Dana museum
Photo by Jessica Williams
Jordan Canary, a student in the J418 In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle class, studied the Normandy exhibit in the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum during a trip to Dana in January.
The museum’s location doesn’t help raise revenue, Layton said. Though only about two hours from Bloomington, Dana isn’t close enough to Indianapolis or Terre Haute to attract casual attendees.

The Friends of Ernie Pyle, a nonprofit organization, run the museum to try to transport visitors into Pyle’s life, as his correspondence once transported readers into the trenches of WWII.

“Back then, being embedded meant you were in uniform,” Layton said. “You drank water out of your own helmet.”

A class visit sparked Layton’s interest in Pyle’s legacy before she visited the museum. Layton traveled with students to Hawaii and visited Pyle’s grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. He was killed in the Pacific in April 1945 while embedded with troops.

Before, Layton didn’t know much about the correspondent, but she saw how much he meant to many of the students. She decided to study up.

This year she went to Dana with associate professor Owen Johnson, who usually takes students in his J418 In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle class to the museum in preparation for their trip to Europe to follow Pyle’s wartime trail. Students in the school’s honors program, Ernie Pyle Scholars, and others often tag along on those trips.

Layton said she loved the displays, which detail the era as well as the man. In addition to war-era maps and artifacts, the museum displays some of Pyle's personal items, such as jewelry and a lighter. Layton filmed them while she was there and decided she could do more.

“I thought this project would be a way to re-initiate interest in the museum,” Layton said. “I envisioned the virtual museum appealing to many age groups.”

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