Joyous Kwanzaa! 1973-1978

Three archival videos on Open Vault invite you to learn about the development of Kwanzaa and its roots in Black Power and black nationalism in the United States. Developed by Maulana Ron Karenga in the late 1960s, Kwanzaa is a harvest festival honoring African American history and culture. Over seven nights, seven candles are lit to observe the seven principles of Kwanzaa:

  1. Umoja Unity
  2. Kujichagulia Self-Determination
  3. Ujima Collective Work and Responsibility
  4. Ujamaa Cooperative Economics
  5. Nia Purpose
  6. Kuumba Creativity
  7. Imani Faith

Three excerpts from Say Brother, WGBH’s longest running public affairs television program by, for and about African Americans, celebrate and explain the meaning of Kwanzaa:

In a 1973 clip, “Ron Karenga and the origin of Kwanzaa,” Brother Imara discusses the validity of Kwanzaa and how the holidays was created. The next year, Brother Imara came back to Say Brother to teach the principles of Kwanzaa as seen in “The meaning of Kwanzaa.”

Finally, a 1978 Say Brother segment “The Art of Black Dance and Music perform dances from the harvest festival Kwanzaa” demonstrates the artistic expression of Kwanzaa.

You may be also interested in this 2003 Interview with Maulana Ron Karenga on NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show. Nearly 30 years after the founding of Kwanzaa, Karenga discusses how the rituals and messages of the holiday have sustained their significance for the black community.

Boston Local News Project Funded!

Happy Holidays! Santa came early to the WGBH Media Library and Archives: we’ve been selected for a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Program to fund our Boston Local News Project! This project, also funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will be able to officially launch in 2011.

The project, a partnership with the Boston Public Library, Northeast Historic Film, and Cambridge Community Television, will make a catalog of 4 local television news collections available online. In addition, we will digitize 40 hours of material, selected by our users. These 4 collections (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH and CCTV) cover over 40 years of local Boston history as well as national stories.

For progress to date on this project, see our intern’s posts on his important work this fall, and watch this space for more news from this important and exciting project!

Robert the Intern's Story: Road Trip

by Robert Johnson

During my internship at the WGBH Media Library and Archives I was given the opportunity to travel to New Hampshire and Connecticut with my supervisor to talk to public media stations (both television and radio) about participating in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Archive Content Inventory Project.  WGBH is administering the project, which hopes to survey the archives/collections of PBS stations across the country.  Individual stations or statewide networks can apply for grants from CPB to fund a survey of their holdings.

Everyone was interested in participating but one station seemed almost thrilled at the prospect of being able to take a survey of the thousands of video tapes in their basement.  There was a little uncertainty involved at points and maybe even a little fear.  Depending on the size of the station there may be tens of thousands of films, video tapes, audio cassettes and digital files that need to be surveyed. That can be overwhelming but WGBH is working to make the process simple and understandable.

In my capacity as an intern, I basically went along as an observer.  I probably said no more than two dozen words at the three meetings I sat in on.  But it was a great experience nevertheless.  These were my first official business trips and even though I was only responsible for shaking hands, smiling and nodding, I would like to think I learned something I can put to use later in my career.

The Late Richard C. Holbrooke discusses the Vietnam War

by Lindsay Whitacre

In tribute to Richard C. Holbrooke, (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010) Open Vault highlights his contributions to the ground-breaking series: Vietnam: A Television History.

Holbrooke was most recently known as a special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan for President Barack Obama. However, from 1963 until 1966, Holbrooke completed diplomatic service first as a provincial representative for the Agency for International Development (AID), then as Staff Assistant to Ambassadors Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge.

In this interview Holbrooke recounts his work in Vietnam, and the differences between the information he gathered while on the ground in Vietnam versus what was being relayed to the American public via the United States Government. He recalls the “credibility gap” and the decisions made by the US Government that were based on incorrect information. He also touches upon changing perceptions on the Vietnam War and how he felt that the Vietnamese had become dependent on the United States.

For more information you can watch his interview here: Interview with Richard C. Holbrooke, 1982.

Robert the Intern's Story: WHDH-TV Card Catalog

by Robert Johnson

One of the most interesting things about working on the WHDH-TV collection was being able to read about news stories in Boston during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Each of the estimated 39,000 cards in the WHDH card catalog corresponds to one piece of 16mm film footage (occasionally more than one) that is located in one of 2,300 film cans. Each can holds multiple reels of film, however, and each reel apparently can be composed of many different pieces of footage spliced together. Nobody is quite sure yet because we haven’ t yet been able to look at all of the reels of film.

I have been transcribing some of these cards into a database in order to make them searchable and sortable. Perhaps my favorite index card I transcribed was the one about a “bizarre kidnapping and hold-up attempt” at the Brockton Fair in July of 1970. The next card was for an interview with a seven-year-old kid about the hold-up. Was he the victim? The culprit? I have no idea. I would love to be able to watch the actual film for these two cards.

There were also a dozen or so cards about Judge Brogna, who was implicated in a bribery scandal in late 1971/early 1972 and later censured for accepting phone calls from a fellow judge (who himself was disbarred for accepting bribes) and not reporting them. According to news articles I found online he was never accused of being offered or accepting a bribe. Nonetheless, the governor of Massachusetts at the time asked him to resign. He refused.

There are also more than 20 cards about two robberies involving Brink’s trucks: one in 1968 and the more famous one in 1950 (The Great Brinks Robbery, as it is known). Boston University the topic of many cards, as was Boston City Hospital and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Senator Edward Brooke had lots of cards, too, as did Francis X. Bellotti and William Baird. Can you tell I was in the “B” drawer? One of the Bellotti cards referred to him as a “victim of Harold Stassen syndrome” and I did not understand the reference until I learned that Stassen was a politician known for his numerous failed bids for president of the United States.

There are also a number of cards about the NASA, the Apollo 11 mission and astronauts. And plenty of celebrities: Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Cid Ceaser, Imogene Coca and Doctor Spock. As someone born more than a decade after WHDH-TV ceased to exist, there were many occasions when political figures both local and national were unfamiliar. I often found myself doing research that may not have necessarily had any impact on the database I was building but certainly helped me understand what many of the news stories were about. Someday, when all of these card describing the collection are digital and online, I can only imagine the value they will offer to students and researchers alike!



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Public Television Quality Group Conference at WGBH

In November, I presented at the Public Television Quality Group’s conference in Boston. Over 300 people showed up at the two day conference to learn more about the transition from analog to digital broadcasting. The workshops offered education and training on the best practices for production from shooting to final delivery.

The presenters ranged came from a wide range of productions and experiences:

  • Mark Schubin, a film historian
  • Jeff Cronenberg, the series editor for Antiques Roadshow
  • Douglas Trumbull, effects supervisor for movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner
  • Steve Audette, award winning editor for FRONTLINE and NOVA
  • Ben McCoy, cinematographer with 20 years experience shooting docs and programs such as FRONTLINE and NOVA
  • Chris Fournelle and other FRONTLINE folks discussed different aspects of their jobs and what systems they had set up to deal with file-based media.

Many of the documents, video, power points and other output from the workshops can be found on the Quality Group web site.

My workshop discussed how productions can organize their materials with the aid of Media Production Organizational Tools that are freely available on Open Vault. My slides are available here: “In the Beginning: It’s all about Metadata”

I also mentioned if you catalog and archive your materials, you can then re-use them. Some examples of what WGBH does besides the series websites are:

  • Open Vault – is a way of making materials available to the public, primarily for educational purposes
  • Teacher’s Domain – Resources for teachers to incorporate media assets into their curriculum
  • WGBH Stock Sales – A revenue generating site providing documentary filmmakers access to WGBH media.

There will be another conference on January 13th which I would urge production folks near Nashville to attend!

For more information about the conference, I recommend Chris Portal’s Blog.

— Alison Bassett, Compliance Manager, WGBH Media Library & Archives