Ron Sutton Papers 1972-1996; MSS-99

Ron Sutton Papers 1972-1996; MSS-99

The Ron Sutton Papers include correspondence, course descriptions and ephemera. The collection, which dates from 1972-1996, is divided into two series: American University Curriculum – Visual Literacy: Learning to See, and the International Visual Literacy Association.


Biographical Note:
Ronald E. Sutton was born in Pennsylvania on June 20, 1935. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Swarthmore College and completed two Masters’ degrees, in Theology and Philosophy, at Drew University in New Jersey. He worked in several pastoral, teaching, and administrative positions that included five years in National Film/Media Educational Administration with the American Film Institute and the National Association of Media Educators. Sutton began teaching at The American University in Washington, D.C. in 1972, where he was a full professor in the Visual Media Program (Film, Photography and Television) of the School of Communication.

During his tenure, Professor Sutton developed many courses in the areas of Film study (History of the Documentary Film and the TV Documentary, The Western, The Science Fiction Film, The Australian New Wave, and Independent Film Makers); Super 8mm and 35mm Still Film Production (Introduction to the Moving Image, Audio-Visual Production, and Basic Visual Media Production); Media Studies (Understanding Mass Media, and Censorship and Media); and, the course most relevant to this collection, Visual Literacy. This was the first course to be so named in a United States college curriculum, to Sutton’s knowledge.

Sutton was an active member of the General Education Program at The American University. He was appointed by the Provost to the General Education Committee as a University Coordinator in Curriculum Area Four: Social Institutions and Behavior. He had two of his courses selected for the General Education Program: Visual Literacy in Area One: The Creative Arts (four sections of 35 students each semester) and Understanding Mass Media in Area Four: Social Institutions and Behavior (four sections of 50 students each semester). He subsequently was charged with development of the faculty and curriculum in these two important areas in General Education and the School of Communication. Sutton is also a past President of the University Senate.

In the International Visual Literacy Association, Sutton has served as Secretary-Treasurer, assisted in the planning of three Annual Conferences in the Washington, D.C. area, published a number of pieces in the Journal of Visual Literacy, and served as one of three Vice Presidents of the organization. His areas of research, study, and publication are visual literacy, media literacy, information literacy, image manipulation (especially special effects work), subliminal reception, visual language (especially film/video language), the image of Jews in the films of Hollywood, media censorship, and radio’s early history.

Scope and Content Note:
The Ron Sutton Papers include correspondence, course descriptions and ephemera. The collection, which dates from 1972-1996, is divided into two series: American University Curriculum – Visual Literacy: Learning to See, and International Visual Literacy Association.

Series I: American University Curriculum – Visual Literacy: Learning to See contains information collected by Ron Sutton to form the “Visual Literacy – Learning to See” course taught at the American University in Washington, D.C. The files contain items leading to the formation of the course, as well as course evaluations, examinations, and syllabi.

Series II: International Visual Literacy Association contains articles and papers on visual literacy and related fields; forms and information collected by Ron Sutton during his period as president of the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA); letters and materials sent to Ron Sutton regarding various aspects of the IVLA and the concept of visual literacy during his period as the organization’s president; an association Operations Manual; and a directory of organization members.

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