Media Center closes its doors

BY ALEX HANAFAN | JULY 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Departments in the University of Iowa may need to start hiring independent photographers for university-sponsored events and activities.

The UI Center for Media Production, a university-operated department that collected pictures from the early stages of Iowa’s architecture and captured the culture of several generations, closed its doors on Monday.

A variety of photos including some dating back to 150 years ago will no longer be held in the center’s offices in Seashore Hall. The archives will be moved to the UI Main Library’s Special Collections for student and public use.

The center had served the university since 1976.

Michael Stenerson, a photographer with the center, worked there for nearly seven years. He said he believes the decision to close the center doesn’t only affect the university but the general public as well.

“This is the last place near town where you can bring or take a copy of an archive, yet alone offer the kind of services we have available,” he said. 

Stenerson said that while there are other university photographers, their work is often more specialized in one department rather than the variety of services offered by the center, such as digital print, scanning, and retouching. 

He said the center was affordable to the university and only charged $60 an event plus a small printing fee.

“Financially, I think the university will be paying more in the long run … as far as commercial photographers go, they charge a lot more,” Stenerson said.

Joe Brennan, the UI’s vice president for Strategic Communications, said the total subsidy for the center was approximately $150,000 per year and next year’s funding will remain unspent until the Strategic Communications Office decides where the money should go.

“For now, it’s just savings in our department, but they will eventually go to higher prioritized strategic demands such as expanding a worldwide web and marketing,” Brennan said.

Greg Prickman, the director of Special Collections, said the process of opening the center’s archives to the public is still in its “premature stages.” He said when the project is finished, the archives will be available to the public online or by personal request at the Main Library.

“There isn’t a set date; it is still too early to tell,” he said.

Brennan said roughly $30,000 of the $150,000 that funded the center will go to the UI Main Library to hire a temporary staff member to take the collection, catalogue it, and access it to the public.

This is primarily to make the transition faster, but as of now, the current library staff is supplemented.

Brennan said he believes the center did an excellent job and its members are very talented, but the demand of customers have been slowly decreasing each year.

The Strategic Communications office made the announcement in April, and it has worked to help customers find different resources since then.

“It is different the way things work than they did 20 to 40 years ago,” Brennan said. “The university was its primary customer, and we no longer need its services.”

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