Job Opening: Senior Developer in the Media Library & Archives


If interested, please apply at and reference Job Requisition # P-0783.

WGBH is looking for a creative and energetic Senior Developer to lead the development of a digital asset management (DAM) preservation system for the WGBH Media Library and Archives.

The Senior Developer will play a leading role in designing and implementing the architecture, workflows, and applications for WGBH MLA digital library services. The system will be based on the Hydra Project technology stack, which includes Ruby on Rails, Blacklight, Apache Solr, and the Fedora Commons repository. In addition, the Senior Developer will work on web based projects for the Media Library and Archives, including the implementation of a website to give scholars and researchers access to material in the WGBH Archive.

Working closely with the Media Library and Archive’s Director, Project Manager, and a WGBH Interactive Designer, the Senior Developer will specify, document and develop the technical architecture of a prototype digital asset management system for digital preservation. They will develop user interfaces to the system. They will also continue to develop the Open Vault website:

Specific duties include:

  • Gather requirements and develop specifications for the digital library architecture; work closely with digital object creators and managers to understand their needs.
  • Working with open-source applications and toolkits, design and implement a multi-purpose repository infrastructure that supports the ingestion, preservation, and delivery of digital objects.
  • Test, evaluate, and recommend potential toolkits and applications for inclusion in the repository architecture.
  • Design and implement workflows to extract, transform and repurpose metadata and digital objects as needed.
  • Customize open source applications to provide front-end interfaces to the repository for end-user delivery.
  • Maintain digital library architecture, troubleshooting issues whenever they arise.
  • Keep abreast of community-wide developments in the realm of digital library software and infrastructure.
  • Contribute to the development of Open Source applications.
  • Write and maintain documentation.
  • May supervise junior programmers.

Please note that this position has the possibility of being extended based upon funding levels.

Responsible for maintaining a working environment that leverages the potential and diversity of the department’s entire staff. Provide direction and leadership in such a way as to nurture, create and maintain an environment that is (1) free from discrimination, intolerance and harassment and (2) provides employees with equal access to opportunities for growth and advancement including professional development whenever possible.

Skills Required:

The ideal candidate:

  • Has experience implementing digital archives, using repository software such as DSpace or Fedora Commons.
  • Is Unix proficient.
  • Has some experience with Blacklight, Hydra, Ruby on Rails and/or Solr.
  • Can demonstrate understanding of Internet technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XML (particularly XSLT, XPath and RDF).
  • Has worked with web services such as REST, SOAP and/or XML-RPC.
  • Is familiar with one or more RDMS, such as MySQL. Experience integrating with, or extracting data from, FileMaker Pro will also be helpful.
  • Is familiar with online media workflows (from post-production to compression to distribution).

WGBH is a Mac shop, with LAMP servers. Candidates should be prepared to share and discuss code samples.

Educational Requirements:

To perform the required duties, the Senior Developer must possess the skills and qualities required to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and more than 3 years of work experience developing web applications. Demonstrated interest in library or moving images archive issues preferred.

Department Overview:

WGBH produces the best and most well known television, radio and online programs for public media. The WGBH Media Library and Archives preserves and helps re-purpose WGBH creations into the future. The MLA establishes the policies and procedures for the access, acquisition, intellectual control, and preservation of WGBH’s physical media and digital production and administrative assets. The MLA also offers production organization of archival materials from projects start up to shut down, research services, rights clearances, and licenses WGBH stock footage. This is a full-time, on-site position with benefits, starting as soon as possible. It is funded for 12 months, with the possibility of renewal after that. Moderate travel may be required. We work hard, but believe in work/life balance.

Mayor Kevin H. White, 1929 – 2012

This weekend we lost a giant of Boston and Massachusetts history, Mayor Kevin White.

White served as mayor of Boston for 16 years and saw the city through immense growth and renewal. He also governed the city through a period of great racial turmoil during the 1960s and 70s, culminating in the controversial desegregation of the Boston City Schools through busing in 1974.

In the WGBH Archives, we have many video and audio recordings of White during his time as Mayor, but a few stand out as examples of his leadership style in times of tension.

Last year, on the anniversary of the event Elizabeth Deane posted a piece about White’s work with soul singer James Brown and with WGBH to broadcast the performer’s concert live the night after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. In this video from that night, Mayor White, humorously dubbed “a swinging cat” by James Brown, pays tribute to Dr. King, “one of the greatest Americans” and asked the audience to help him “make Dr. King’s dream a reality in Boston.” This pivotal moment quite possibly saved the city from the riots and violence that plagued other cities in response to Dr. King’s death.

A second pivotal moment in White’s tenure as mayor came in 1974 when the U.S. District Court ruled that Boston’s schools were racially segregated and discriminatory and ordered the implementation of a controversial busing program to desegregate the system. The Boston School Committee, led by Louise Day Hicks, actively resisted the court ordered program and many white neighborhoods protested against their children being bussed across the city to integrate predominantly black schools, and against black children being bussed into their neighborhoods. Many parents, particularly in the neighborhood of South Boston, kept their children out of school in defiance.

In this clip, Mayor White answers questions from the press regarding violent flare-ups and the timetable for the busing program. A year later, having experienced the tumultuous and sometimes violent first year of desegregation through busing, he addressed the city and appealed to the community to act responsibly, and with restraint, to allow children to enter the schools safely as they opened in September of 1975.

Mayor White’s passion for redevelopment and his strong vision for the future of the city also left their mark on Boston, particularly in the growth of the downtown area and the eventual submergence of the central artery highway underground. Even thought the legacy of the desegregation crisis as a whole is still unsettled, White’s leadership as a peacekeeper and the voice of reason helped to maneuver the city through extremely tense times of anger and controversy.

Other remembrances:

From the Front Lines to the Classroom: Remembering Fred Shuttlesworth and Derrick Bell

Shuttlesworth Statue, Birmingham, AL. Courtesy Kinu Panda.

This past week saw the passing of Fred Shuttlesworth and Derrick Bell, two important actors in the Civil Rights Movement.

Shuttlesworth, a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a leader in the Birmingham Campaign to desegregate public facilities and end discrimination in hiring in Birmingham, Alabama, endured repeated attempts on his life, church and family by members of the white resistance. In addition to his activities in Birmingham, Shuttlesworth could be found on the front lines of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1964 efforts to desegregate the beaches in St. Augustine, Florida, and the 1965 marches in Selma, Alabama.

Open Vault contains a recording of Fred Shuttleworth’s speech at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. Click on the 5th of 15 hours of the Educational Radio Network’s live reporting from the march – Shuttlesworth starts at 19:00. You can hear a great example of Shuttlesworth’s fiery and inspirational preaching style in this recording:

Now, in many places, the court’s calendars of the land are clogged. The police forces are being marshaled and lines taught to keep people from trying to be free. The judges have their hands full and the politicians are worrying night and day. Now, if the politicians want to be free, and if they want peace, if the judges want to unclog their calendar, if the police want to be unfettered so that they can go ahead and hunt crooks because people who want to be free are not necessarily crooks.

At the same time that outspoken leaders like Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King were marching, sitting-in and conducting public campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience, the NAACP was waging its own war against the legal barriers to desegregation through the court system.

In 1959, 29 year old Derrick Bell joined the NAACP Legal Defense team along side Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley. Throughout the 1960s, Bell would shepherd 300 school and public facilities desegregation suits through the courts, including James Meredith’s successful bid to desegregate the University of Mississippi, or “Ole Miss,” in 1962.

Derrick Bell, 1990

Almost 30 years later, Derrick Bell, then serving as law professor at Harvard, found himself at the center of a new kind of civil rights struggle. When a Black female lecturer was denied an open tenure-track position, Bell used his highly visible position as the first African American professor at the law school to draw attention to what he and many of his students felt were ongoing discriminatory hiring practices. Bell took leave without pay to protest the lack of women of color on the law school faculty.

Peer into this later moment of civil rights struggle in a Ten O’Clock News
feature story on Bell’s protest here on Open Vault.

Fred Shuttlesworth and Derrick Bell fought against discrimination and racism throughout their careers – Shuttlesworth from the pulpit and on the streets, and Bell in the courtroom and the classroom. Taken together, their two paths paint a rich picture of the struggles of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, and continuing up through today.

Do you remember the Birmingham Campaign?
Would you have the courage of James Meredith to desegregate Ole Miss?
How have evolving hiring practices affected the diversity of your workplace?
Would you be willing to sacrifice your life or your livelihood for the sake of others?


Steve Jobs on “The Machine that Changed the World,” 1990

In this 1990 interview with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs for a documentary on “The Machine that Changed the World,” Jobs muses on milestones in computing and the future of the machine as he sees it.

In addition to recalling his first exposure to computers, 35 year old Jobs imagines a world where networked computers change the way humans work and communicate with each other. Here are few snippets of the interview which you can watch in full on Open Vault.

…we’re starting to be able to create clusters of people working on a common task in literally 15 minutes worth of set-up…we’re finding we can re-organize our companies electronically very rapidly… in the 1980s we did personal computing and now we’re going to extend that as we network these things into inter-personal computing

Check out the full, unedited interview here on Open Vault.

How did Steve Job’s and Apple’s innovations change your work life and how you communicate?

Do you remember your first desktop computer?

Boston Globe Front Page!

On Saturday, July 9th, the WGBH Media Library & Archives were featured on the front page of our local paper, the Boston Globe:

“Clips of history, a click away: Digital library project will place 40 hours of Hub TV newscasts from 1959-2000 at your fingertips

Globe reporter Johnny Diaz interviewed several people involved in the project including our Director, Karen Cariani, and outlined our work to provide access forty years of Boston’s local news archives online.

Check out the article as well as our Boston Local News Digital Library web site where our interns are blogging about their experiences transcribing news library cards and the fabulous stories they are finding! The latest finds include the Big Dig from Jason, the Fortune Society from Jon, some Apollo 14 Astronauts from Sadie and a bank heist in our hometown of Brighton from Kenny.

We are excited about the publicity this project is garnering and are happy to report that we’ve already had several fruitful conversations with former news staffers, possible future collaborators, and with students interested in interning!

Mapping our internal catalog to Open Vault

For our “Participatory Cataloging” project, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are planning to post our entire internal library catalog on Open Vault in the coming months. I have the enviable task of mapping our homegrown Filemaker database to the PBCoredata structure that determines the metadata you see here on Open Vault. With the help of my colleagues in the WGBH Library, Archives and Interactive departments, we are working out exactly which piece of data will end up where on this site, and how to translate years of legacy workflows into something we can reproduce and sustain online.

Media Archives Research SystemOur homegrown database is called “MARS.” As librarians we love our acronyms. “MARS” stands for the “Media Archive Research System” and it is used here at WGBH to manage our physical archives. Productions use MARS to conduct research and to find and retrieve tapes. My department, the Media Library & Archives, home of MARS, uses it as a catalog of our physical collection. In addition, it manages circulation, maintains many of our controlled vocabularies, and relates our rights information to our programs. This is a lot to ask of one system, and a lot to ask of one web interface. This is the challenge of putting MARS online.

An additional issue is the historical inconsistency of the data. Over the years, we’ve had varying levels of description and cataloging coming in from our productions as they archive their materials. We rely wholly on the productions to describe the materials they deposit and, if they don’t describe it well, they can’t find it again. In recent years, as our compliance managers have worked hard to set up procedures and tools for our producers, the data has improved substantially. But what to do with all of the older empty fields?

The empty fields are the main motivation for this project. Once we have our catalog online, we will work with our users to see if they can help us fill in the gaps. For example, a researcher watching a videotape will know more about the contents of the tape than our MARS system records. We plan to work with that researcher to incorporate his or her notes into the catalog and improve the accessibility of that tape’s record.

Admittedly, we have a bit of a chicken and egg issue here: how will the researcher find what they need if the tape is not fully described? Well, it’s possible. As shallow as our catalog sometimes is on the details, it is deep on context – if you know how to read it. Our researchers’ archival sleuthing skills, combined with the knowledge of our reference staff will hopefully land them in the right place until we are able to build out the details.

Despite these challenges, as I work with the fields in MARS, a clear picture is emerging of our core data set. As a working corporate archive with a public mission, we sometimes feel a bit of schizophrenia. We are constantly accessioning new materials, adding new records to MARS, and circulating old materials for re-use and re-versioning. With all of these moving pieces, it is very gratifying to see that the core data set and structure holds strong.

I may eat these words when I move on to mapping our multi-layered, multi-modal digital asset management system… stay tuned!

[Chicken courtesy USDA]



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Robinson Risner, former POW

This Memorial Day, we remember the sacrifices of our service men and women. We invite you to watch or listen to our interview with James Robinson Risner, filmed for Vietnam: A Television History in 1981.

J. Robinson Risner, 1981

Risner, a celebrated fighter pilot who led missions in both the Korean and Vietnam wors, was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in April of 1965.

In September of that same year, Risner was shot down flying over North Vietnam. He ejected and landed hard in a rice paddy, badly injuring his knee. He was captured and taken to the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prison and later to Cu Loc Prison, known as “The Zoo”. His captors revelled in the fact that they had captured the hero from the cover of Time. He was tortured for 32 days and held in solitary confinement for 3 years.

Despite these unbearable circumstances, Risner helped lead American resistance in the prison, using a tapping code to communicate, and inspiring the other POW’s with his resilience and spirituality. He later wrote:

“To make it, I prayed by the hour, I did not ask God to take me out of it. I prayed he would give me the strength to endure it…

Risner's release, 1973. Courtesy DOD

J. Robinson Risner was released in 1973 as part of Operation Homecoming. He was awarded the Air Force Cross multiple times, and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. A nine-foot bronze statue of Risner now stands on the central plaza of the Air Force Academy in Colorado, honoring the sentiment he shared that hearing fellow prisoners singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” in the Hanoi Hilton made him feel nine feet tall.

Watch the entire interview with J. Robinson Risner here on Open Vault.

WGBH Celebrates Preservation Week!

This week libraries and archives nationwide celebrate Preservation Week, highlighting the great conservation, preservation and migration work that is necessary to keep our cultural heritage materials alive and accessible for our users.

Here at the WGBH Media Library and Archives, we are using the opportunity to review some of the materials we have been able to save over the past year, with generous support from several grant funded projects:

For the Vietnam Project, funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services:
This project focused on the Vietnam: A Television History collection from which we reconstructed and transferred over 360 hours of film recordings. The 360 hours represent original footage filmed in Vietnam shortly after the war, stock footage gathered for the series, and 270 unique interviews conducted by the filmmakers. The reconstructed interviews include soldiers on both sides of the conflict, as well as leaders such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Vietnamese premier Pham Van Dong, and recently deceased “first lady” Madame Nhu. The entire collection is accessible on Open Vault at

For the American Archive Pilot Project, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
This project focused on cataloging, transferring and digitizing materials related to the Civil Rights Movement. Highlights from this collection include original broadcasts from Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964 and interviews with Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. All told, we preserved over 41 hours of television material and 109 hours of radio for this project. Rights permitting, we are working to make these newly preserved materials accessible.

For the March on Washington Project, from WGBH Radio, funded by the Save America’s Treasures program:
As part of the Educational Radio Network, WGBH broadcast over 15 hours of live coverage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. This collection includes not only Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, but also interviews with marchers, commentary by journalists, and recordings of musical performances heard that day. This material was preserved from 1/4″ audio tape to digital audio files.

For the Boston Symphony Orchestra Charles Munch DVD release:
40 original 2” videotape broadcast masters, spanning the years 1957-1980, were reformatted and preserved as an initial step toward commercially releasing DVDs of legacy full-length Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts featuring conductor Charles Munch.

For the Boston Pops retrospective project:
As part of a celebration of the anniversary of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a televised retrospective of the program Evening at Pops incorporated material from 6 newly preserved 2” videotape broadcast masters. These tapes, unseen since their initial broadcast in the 1970s, included performances by Marion Anderson, Roberta Flack, Glen Campbell, and one of the first ever concerts to utilize Moog musical synthesizers.

For our “Radio Highlights” project:
Collection gems such as Dancing Disco (1979), James Brown in Concert (1968), and Zoom (1972) were transferred from obsolete formats and digitized for this project and then, through the great work of WGBH Radio and Producer Elizabeth Deane, re-purposed into interstitial messaging for our radio stations!

In addition, here at WGBH, we regularly ingest born digital and digitized materials into our Digital Asset Management system which stores and replicates the files across several systems. In this way we have multiple copies available, should one file be corrupted or lost. In the past year alone we have ingested into the system over 4000 video files, 7000 electronic documents, 600 audio files, and over 32,000 images. We expect these numbers to increase greatly in the coming years as current productions like FRONTLINE, Antiques Roadshow, The Callie Crossley Show, Greater Boston, and Teachers’ Domain continue to deliver their production archives digitally, and as other productions move to a “tapeless” digital workflow.



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