1991 solar eclipse footage from NOVA

We’re getting ready for this month’s solar eclipse and thought we’d share this historic footage from the WGBH vault! In July 1991, NOVA recorded the particularly long six and a half minute total solar eclipse atop the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, the location of a major astronomical observatory in Hawaiʻi. The footage, originally shot on 16mm film, was featured in NOVA’s 1991 documentary Eclipse of the Century and has been digitized and preserved by the WGBH Media Library and Archives.

Help us improve Open Vault and earn an Amazon gift card!

WGBH’s Media Library & Archives  (MLA) is currently seeking participants for a usability study of our online Open Vault digital archive. We are seeking five participants from the public media community and five scholar participants. The study will last about an hour or less, and all participants will receive a $20 Amazon gift card.

We are collaborating with Simmons College graduate student researchers Derek Murphy and Anna Boutin to learn about ways that Open Vault can be improved to make it easier and more enjoyable to use.  You do not have to be located in Boston to participate – the study is conducted long-distance over the internet. You’ll connect with our researchers using the video conferencing tool GoToMeeting (Simmons College will provide the software) and share your screen with them while you use Open Vault’s various features. This way, we can get your thoughts on where the website works and where it could use some work. Your participation would greatly help us make Open Vault the best it can be, and would also help our student researchers learn more about usability and media archives!

If you are interested in participating in the usability study, please send an email to Casey Davis, MLA Senior Project Manager at casey_davis@wgbh.org.

Join us at the new WGBH Satellite Studio @ BPL!

On Thursday, October 20 at 11am, WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA) staff will host an event at WGBH’s new satellite studio in the Newsfeed Cafe at the Boston Public Library’s Johnson Building! Join us that day to learn about WGBH’s history and about the historic collections preserved and made accessible by the MLA.

WGBH MLA staff Leah Weisse, Production Archival Compliance Manager, and Casey Davis, MLA Senior Project Manager, will meet with library patrons and the public to discuss WGBH’s history, its productions, and provide an overview of the activities of the WGBH Media Library and Archives. Attendees will explore some of the historic audio and video content that is preserved by the WGBH Archives, and Leah and Casey will provide a demo showing attendees how to access WGBH’s historic collection of television, radio, and other materials.

For more info contact Casey Davis at casey_davis@wgbh.org. We hope to see you there!

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WGBH’s new satellite studio at the Boston Public Library. Photo credit: Casey Robidoux WGBH News

User Funded Digitization

We’re happy to announce that the first Open Vault user funded digitization of a program has been completed and is now available to listen to online!

The program audio comes from the series, The Advocates episode 103 “Should the Law Permit Voluntary Euthanasia for the Terminally Ill?”

You can access the program audio by clicking this link.

If you haven’t tried requesting digitization or transcription of a program, it’s easy!

First register for a free Open Vault account and login.

Then search for a record of interest and click the “Request Digitization” or “Request Transcript” button.

That’s it!  You will then receive more information about your request via email from WGBH.

The New Open Vault

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As you’ve probably seen, Open Vault looks a little different than it did a month ago. The WGBH Media Library and Archives team have been hard at work revamping the website for over a year now and we’re happy to announce some new features you’ll be able to take advantage of.

Scholar Collections
You’ll notice on the right side of the homepage there are Scholar Collections. During the past year we’ve completed a project where scholars were granted access to WGBH material of all kinds of topics and then created articles based on their research. We’re pleased to announce that those articles, as well as related media and content, are now available on Open Vault as part of the Scholar Collections.

Browse WGBH Series and Programs
Another new feature of Open Vault is the ability to browse material that WGBH has in it’s Media Library and Archives. On the top of any page if you click on the “Series” button you’ll be taken to a page with an alphabetical list of all the Series we have material for in the Archives. Clicking on a particular Series title, you’ll be taken to a page listing the Series description as well as a list of Programs. If you click on a Program title, you’ll be taken to a page that has the description of the Program. If audio, video, or image material is available and digitized on Open Vault from a particular program, you’ll also be able to see that there as well.
We’re exposing our collection to the public in hopes to gain interest and provide access.

Request Digitization of Audio Video or Transcript
A feature that we introduced on the Boston TV News Digital Library website (bostonlocaltv.org) is the ability to request that a program be digitized. As part of this Open Vault relaunch, we’re including the ability to request a digital transcript be made of a program as well.
How it works is if you register for a free account on Open Vault, when you navigate to a page where no video is streaming and/or no transcript is viewable, you have the ability to pay for the digitization yourself by clicking the “Request Digitization” or “Request Transcription” button. This will send an email to the WGBH MLA staff and someone will be in contact with you about how much it would cost you to make that request digitized and available on Open Vault (rights permitting).  Think of it as a sponsorship of the preservation of the asset as well as helping to pay to make it accessible for everyone on the internet.

Improved Features
Even features that worked well on the older version of the Open Vault website have been given slight upgrades. You should notice improved browser compatibility, even on mobile devices. The video player is improved and navigating longer length media is easier. If a transcript exists for a video file and you jump to a specific point in the video, the transcript should automatically move there as well.

As with any website re-launch, there are still some bugs the development team is hard at work on so if any functionality is missing or a link is broken, rest assured we’re hard at work trying to resolve those issues quickly. Thank you for your patience.

Please feel free to direct any comments or questions to openvault[at]wgbh[dot]org.

Thank you for taking the time to use Open Vault and we look forward to bringing additional access to users in the future.

-WGBH Media Library and Archives

1st reel of legendary James Brown concert returned to ‘GBH

James Brown performing at the Boston Garden in 1968.

The Media Library and Archives has long been in possession 2nd and 3rd reel of the 1968 James Brown concert, an event credited with keeping the peace after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It wasn’t until a few months ago that members of our stock sales team discovered that the original 2inch videotape of the first hour of the concert, missing all these years, was in storage with the James Brown Estate. As part of the licensing agreement for the upcoming documentary on James Brown, the stock sales team negotiated the deposit of a preservation quality digital surrogate into the WGBH Archives.

To share this recent discovery with other WGBH staff, the MLA arranged for a screening of the “lost reel.” Employees took time out of their busy schedules to relive a famous night in Boston history. The screening included the best of the “lost” first reel, which had lots of technical sound difficulties. This included a rare performance of Brown singing “If I Ruled the World” and James Brown addressing the audience in a unique moment. In addition, a second James Brown performance of “Going to Kansas City,” as well as powerful words from Brown, City Councilor Thomas Atkins, and Mayor Kevin White screened from the later reels.

One of the employees who attended was WGBH Jazz Gallery’s Al Davis, who was at the concert in 1968. Davis was kind enough to get up and share a few words with his fellow employees. He spoke of how his mother wasn’t sure she should let him go to the concert. He was ultimately allowed to go and headed down to the Boston Garden on the Orange Line. The event was very meaningful to him, especially since James Brown was such an important mentor to young black students at the time. Davis also recounted how under the urging of James Brown and others the crowd truly did remain peaceful after the concert.

You can watch clips from the concert, like this part of James Brown’s tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

From thousands of tapes to 17

On March 11, 2013, WGBH Media Library and Archives’ Archives Manager Keith Luf and Digital Archives Manager Michael Muraszko loaded 7,010 tapes from the WGBH vault onto 12 palettes, which were then shipped via an 18-wheeler to be digitized at Crawford Media Services in Atlanta, Georgia for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.  Only a few months later would the WGBH MLA in collaboration with the Library of Congress be selected as the permanent home for the American Archive collection, an initiative to identify, preserve, and make accessible as much as possible the historic record of public media in America.

WGBH’s tapes were stored in 306 archives boxes, totaling 459 linear feet (longer than 1 1/2 football fields!) and comprising more than 6,400 hours of content. In many cases, the archives staff knew only the program title of the tapes — they often knew nothing about the recorded participants. The content dated back as early as March of 1947 and was as recent as 2005. The MLA sent material on 15 different video and audio tape formats, the majority of which had exceeded the manufacturer’s intended lifespan. MLA’s Keith Luf compared the situation to a child’s 18 year old cat, which everyone knew wouldn’t — and couldn’t — be around much longer.

In June of this year, WGBH’s 6,400 hundred hours of content was returned. In addition to the original 7,010 tapes, the content was delivered as digital files on a second copy — on 17 LTO-6 tapes…. stored in one box!

From 7,010 tapes to 17!
From 7,010 tapes to 17!

And with the digitized material came a new ease of accessibility — the MLA staff have been able to easily watch or listen to the digital files and discover content they never knew had been sitting in the vault for all these years. Among the new discoveries includes a 1967 10-minute monologue by American historian and activist Howard Zinn on the social unrest of the times; a recorded speech given by JFK in either 1962 or 1963 at the Armory in Boston; and a 1975 video recording of a cello class taught by Harvard professor Mstislav Rostropovich, who during the recording asked a graduate student in his class “What kind of a name is Yo-Yo?”

As additional funding has become available, the MLA has recently coordinated with Crawford on the digitization of 800 more hours of 3/4″ videotapes and 1/4″ audiotapes, which will be shipped out next week.  Who knows what we’ll find next!?