NYU Scholar Feasts on Vintage Joyce Chen Cooks Episodes

Iconic WGBH Cooking Show Host the Focus of Research by Prof. Dana PolanJoyce_Chen_Cooks_Logo

As an early pioneer in cooking shows, WGBH produced groundbreaking series such as Julia Child’s the French Chef and Joyce Chen Cooks. As a result, the WGBH Media Library and Archives is a treasure trove of classic culinary television footage and the first stop for scholars studying the cooking show genre. Dana Polan, a professor of Cinema Studies at New York University has returned to the Archives to study the work of an iconic WGBH host and once again, the footage in the Archives is at the center of his research.

Previously Polan visited the WGBH archives while researching his book Julia Child’s The French Chef (Duke University, 2011). This time around, he’s studying another famous female chef, Joyce Chen, who also used the WGBH airwaves to teach the public how to cook ethnic dishes in their own kitchens.  Joyce Chen, emigrated to America during the Chinese Revolution. After becoming a successful cookbook author and Cambridge restaurateur, she hosted Joyce Chen cooks on WGBH from 1966 to 1967. Polan’s latest work focuses on Joyce Chen within the context of the Chjnese emigré culture and its attempts to craft a version of Chinese cuisine that would appeal to urban professionals in the U.S.

Currently, eleven of the episodes Polan used in his research have been digitized and are available online to the public. These include Joyce Chen Cooks Peking Ravioli and Joyce Chen Cooks for Fussy Eaters. The vintage footage of these episodes allowed Polan to study the nuances of Chen’s personality and the techniques that made her a trailblazer in the history of television cooking.

Recently, Professor Polan presented his work at NYU’s 2014 Feast & Famine seminar series hosted by NYU’s Food Studies program. Additionally, he is working on a critical essay about Joyce Chen that will be published soon on Open Vault.

Throughout his research, Professor Polan, took extensive notes while viewing each episode. The summaries, program logs, and select descriptive metadata he provided to the Archives have made the series content much more accessible and discoverable by other researchers and scholars.

As a public media station, WGBH’s Media Library and Archive serves as a free resource to researchers and scholars as well as the general public. The Archives contain more than 500,000 audio, video, and related assets from WGBH’s more than 60 years of broadcasting

To search the digital collection of almost 4,000 video, audio, and related materials, click here. If you have inquiries about other assets in our collection, contact us at archives_requests [at] wgbh [dot] org, and consider a visit to the archives.

Get To Know Your Neighbors: Searching the BSO Archives

By Sadie Roosa

I think most archives feel like they’re fending for themselves. Sure we go to conferences to share our challenges and successes, but when it comes down to the daily grind, we don’t usually feel very connected. The other day, I had the pleasant experience of realizing that not only are we connected, but that by utilizing these connections, we can really help each other.

A while back, a WGBH listener donated a collection of off-air recordings of BSO radio broadcasts. I was tasked with accessioning them, which didn’t seem like a very hard project. The listener had carefully labeled each tape with the season, week, and date of the performance. Every once in awhile there was even the name of the conductor. It all seemed pretty simple to me: create a database, gather the metadata from the tape labels, and ingest it into our main system.

But in the middle of adding barcodes to the tapes, I starting thinking how much more useful it would be to add information about the conductors, the pieces performed, and any special guests or soloists. To find this information in our own archives, I would probably have to dig through old program guides, and who knows if they would have written up all of the details I wanted.

Then I remembered that just a few weeks before I had seen a presentation at NEA about the new BSO Archives Performance History Search.  I hadn’t used the website yet, but it seemed like there was a chance it could be useful. I took the first tape and typed the date in to the search by performance fields. And just like that, every bit of information I wanted appeared on my screen. It was amazing. And even better, since it was already in electronic form, I could copy and paste the song titles and conductor names, rather than having to transcribe them from our physical program guides.

I continued to use the BSO Performance History Search for the rest of the tapes, and ended up with much richer records than I originally thought possible, and it only took me a fraction of the amount of time that it would have if I had only relied on our own archives.

After such a positive experience, I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for other possible ways we can utilize and collaborate with other archives. And, of course, the WGBH MLA will be happy to share our information to help other archives enrich their collections as well. Contact us at openvault [at] wgbh [dot] org.