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In Memoriam: Stanley Karnow

Stanley KarnowOpen Vault mourns the loss of Stanley Karnow, award-winning journalist and author of Vietnam: A Television History. Stanley was one of the driving forces behind the multi award-winning 13-part series Vietnam: A Television History. Whether it was on location in Vietnam, or the USA, interviewing politicians, soldiers or civilians caught up in the struggle, Stanley was integral to making the series into landmark television viewing going on to win accolades including six Emmy awards, the DuPont Columbia Award and a Peabody award.


Visit the Vietnam Collection to watch the interviews he created for this television series.

Norodom Sihanouk – End of an Era

Norodom Sihanouk has died at the age of 89 in Beijing. His varied and turbulent political life as King, Prime Minister, Exile led him to be both admired and reviled by the Khmer people, particularly his early support for the Khmer Rouge.

Watch Sihanouk’s film of his return from exile in the early 1970’s, including meeting with Khmer Rouge officials, prior to his subsequent imprisonment by the regime.


Remembering John Silber

By Sadie Roosa

Former Boston University president and gubernatorial candidate for Massachusetts, John Silber, died today of kidney failure at the age of 86. Serving as president of BU for a quarter century, Silber was an important figure in Boston’s history, and he continued to be active in the Massachusetts political and education arena after stepping down as president.

The Boston Local TV News collections cover the span of his entire career, and highlight many of the important stages of impact on the Boston community.

The WHDH collection has the beginning of his career in Boston with Silber’s inauguration as President of BU in 1971. It also contains several addresses he made early in his tenure, including one on American Universities.

The WCVB collection contains a lot of his career at BU, including coverage of the faculty and clerical worker strike that epitomized the tension that existed between Silber and the BU faculty and staff throughout the 70s. There is also footage of him discussing student loan policy and Affirmative Action.

The WGBH Ten O’Clock News collection overlaps with the WCVB collection and contains some coverage of Silber’s career at BU, including him giving an honorary degree to Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi and BU taking over management of the Chelsea public school system. The Ten O’Clock News also covers Silber’s career outside of his role as president a university. The collection has his views on bilingual education, a discussion/argument with Noam Chomsky on Contra aid, and coverage of his gubernatorial race in 1990 against William Weld, which includes a Ten O’Clock News Special profiling him as the democratic candidate. There is also a retrospective piece in the collection, containing photographs of Silber in his youth, at his wedding, at college, and with his family. Some of the Ten O’Clock News footage of Silber has already been digitized and is available on Open Vault.

John Silber had a large impact on the local Boston community, and our Boston Local News Digital Library is one way that impact will be recorded, preserved, and remembered. The catalog will be online soon to research these stories on his life and career.

The Advocates

The Advocates was a weekly debate program that aired nationwide on PBS through much of the turbulent decade of the 1970s. Policy issues selected by the show’s editorial staff ranged over the many hot political topics of the day, from the Vietnam War to same sex marriage, campaign financing reform, abortion, affirmative action, nuclear power, federally funded health care, and many more.TheAdvocates

Americans are still battling over many of the same issues today, and possibly the simple and civilized Advocates format could serve us well in our own uncivil times. Using a courtroom setting, and shooting often at Faneuil Hall or in the WGBH studios, staff producers deployed an array of impressive witnesses over the years, from Billy Graham to Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, then-senator Joseph Biden, Michael Dukakis, novelist Pearl Buck, Hubert Humphrey, and Antonin Scalia – hundreds of eloquent spokespersons over the life of the series.

We’re excited to bring these complete programs to Open Vault and most feature sync-able transcripts so you can follow along.
Keep checking back as we continue to add more programs.

Complete programs can be found at this link.

The Advocates on Open Vault collection was funded by the Open Society Foundations.  As a part of Open Society’s Youth Initiative Global Debate’s program, The Advocates will be featured in an online collection of debate resources offered by IDEA, the International Debate Education Association.  IDEA is an international network that trains young debaters and inspires informed discussion around the world.  To learn more, please click on this link. 

Connecting footage to history – the story of Mike Benge

As the Vietnam project draws to a close we’d like to share an extraordinary story found in the stock footage for the collection. When we were processing the materials for the collection, we came across a very beaten-up box of rusty and moldy cans that were not listed anywhere in the original production database. They were all USAID (US Agency for International Development) films with little information attached. Once transferred, we found they were films on the activities of aid workers in the late 1960s in Vietnam. One was on Mike Benge, an aid worker in a recently liberated village called Ban Me Thuot. We learned that the village was later overrun and, while attempting to rescue others, Benge was captured and spent five years as a prisoner of war, part of it in a cage and a black box. Karen Colbron, the project manager, says “I was able to track him down and point him to the film on Open Vault. He was thrilled to see it again and shared more of his story with me. This is what I love about being an archivist: the power of the moving image to capture our history and allow us to share such unique and memorable stories.” http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/vietnam-8987ff-mike-benge-montagnards-ban-me-https://blog.openvault.wgbh.org/wp-login.phpthuot-south-vietnam

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?

LSD: Lettvin vs. Leary

Get ready for a mind-expanding trip with LSD guru Timothy Leary on Open Vault. We’ve just posted LSD: Lettvin vs. Leary, an extraordinary hour-long debate from 1967, shot before a packed house at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium.

The posting comes in connection with a radio feature story heard recently on WGBH 89.7 by local Morning Edition host Bob Seay. (Click on the icon under the date to hear the story.) It’s about some young researchers at Harvard Medical School who have cracked open the door to the LSD vault, which has pretty much been locked for more than forty years.

Here’s a brief description of the film available on Open Vault:

Leary speaks first. Dressed in Indian-style tunic and trousers, he makes his case mainly in darkness, with psychedelic images flickering on a screen behind him. He describes LSD as a sacrament, a psychedelic technique that enables us to reach a deeper level of thinking and inspiration. “It’s a gamble,” Leary acknowledges:

It’s Russian Roulette…I don’t know the effects of LSD on the nervous system…[But] of all the Russian Roulette games I see around me, including Vietnam and polluted air, I would say the Russian Roulette of LSD is about the best gamble in the house.

Lettvin then takes the stage. In his short-sleeved shirt and pocket protector, he seems like a character in a different play. He offers an impassioned critique of Leary’s case, based in part on his experience as a senior psychiatrist in an addict ward. “I look upon you as a fundamentally vicious tool of the devil,” he says to Leary, “and I will explain to you why.”

Lettvin compares the effects of another drug, alcohol, with those of LSD, focusing on what he calls LSD’s “return trips,” the repeated episodes that sometimes follow a single dose of the drug. “You pay for whatever visions you get by this loss in judgment,” he says, “the loss of judgment that stays and stays.”

He sums up his criticism of Leary’s case with one word. “[It’s] not a scientific word, wrote a critic in the Boston Globe, [but] sometimes the right word has to come from the street.”

The film was produced by Austin Hoyt, and shot and edited by Boyd Estus.

Here’s a link to the film: LSD: Lettvin vs. Leary

The Infill Housing Program, 1968-1973

by Kenny Whitebloom

[re-posted from our Boston Local TV News Project blog: http://bostonlocaltv.org]

If you’ve been following this blog with any sort of regularity, which we hope’s the case, you are by now well aware that the WHDH-TV cards often reveal only one small glimpse into the larger news story they reference. One measly, unsatisfying glimpse: that’s usually all we get.

That was the case with a recent series of cards I encountered about the Infill Housing Program of 1968, a development project which broke ground in November of that year. Thanks to the folks at the Internet Archive and the Boston Public Library–who together have digitized and made (easily) accessible a great many of Boston’s public records–I was able to get a clear understanding of the history of the Infill Housing Program in Boston, and Roxbury in particular.

A map displaying the 11 completed Infill buildings in Roxbury, from Mayor Flynn's 1986 "Roxbury Neighborhood Housing Initiative"*

The Infill Housing Program of 1968, organized by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) under the supervision of director Hale Champion, was designed to re-purpose vacant lots in city neighborhoods into some 2,000 single-family and multi-story housing units for low-income families around Boston. Known also as “vest pocket” housing, for the way in which construction ‘slips’ in to already portioned off land, the Infill Housing concept of the late 1960s called for the construction of industrially-produced, precast concrete modular housing on vacant, tax-foreclosed lots in Boston, namely in the South End, North Dorchester, and Roxbury. The majority of the Infill structures were four story buildings designed to house two ‘large’ families in a duplex arrangement. Despite their concrete gut, the apartments were brick-faced and considered architecturally attractive for the time (see: exterior of an Infill prototype). The other structural type was wood-framed.


Mayor Kevin White sold the $47 million Infill idea to the Boston City Council in October 1968 by promising the project wouldn’t cost the city a thing: the Federal government would cover the costs of plans and loans, and private developers would see to the actual building. The first year of construction was to cost $16 million. The White administration claimed that the use of private development firms using mass production techniques would help reduce waste, save money, and speed up construction. The Development Corporation of America (DCA), who had claimed that the construction of the frames for each four-story house would take no longer than one day, won the largest contract. (Another firm, Housing Innovations, took a small amount of units). While the DCA covered the construction of the Roxbury and South End iterations, the Boston Housing Authority took charge of renting the units upon completion to a select group of low-incomes tenants under a subsidized rental program. Once occupied, the houses were to be run and managed by a tenant cooperative.

Opposition to the project was swift and vociferous. It ranged from issues related to structural design and density to social prejudice, especially in the predominately white areas. Mrs. Louise Day Hicks, then councilor-elect, called the program an “ill-conceived, selfish-interest-spawned, giveaway program.” Councilors Thomas I. Atkins and Frederick C. Langone objected to the plan’s speedy presentation to the City Council, despite their eventual approval. Langone said that even “the administrator of the Model Cities [a wide-ranging plan to revitalize many city services in Roxbury and North Dorchester] admitted to us he had not read the document which came before us.” Local residents complained that, unlike large private contractors, the city never afforded them the opportunity to purchase the vacant lots for housing or other purposes. Others worried that the large family units would take up dwindling open space that otherwise may have been used as a public park or play area for children.

All things considered, Roxbury was to see 400 units of family housing as result of the Infill program. The project broke ground on Intervale Street in Roxbury in late November 1968, and by 1973, after delays had pushed the start of real construction back to 1971, a little over 100 units in 18 structures were built to various stages of completion. Eleven buildings were constructed in Roxbury. However that was to be the extent of the progress. The DCA filed for bankruptcy in April 1973, leaving half-completed buildings to remain vacant on once vacant lots. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inherited the properties. The structures that were completed soon proved to be structurally deficient: the slabs of pre-stress concrete pulled apart and the roofs leaked. Social problems arose as a result of the some 315 families living together in the various apartment buildings, and by 1976 the tenant cooperative had faded away. Robert Walsh, the deputy director of the BRA from 1971-1976, explained the project’s failure in two short sentences: “Simply speaking it was a damn good idea. It just broke down in execution.”

For sixteen years the abandoned shells of the half-completed or otherwise abandoned Infill houses languished in Roxbury, bringing down housing prices and attracting vandals and burglars until 1986 when another neighborhood housing initiative spearheaded by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn made use of the existing structures and land. Open Vault, our very own digital library of archived WGBH news and programming, has footage from The Ten O’Clock News in 1986 which shows Mayor Flynn announcing the construction of a housing and commercial complex in Douglass Square in Roxbury.

Save for a few residents who admitted that they were better off in the new units despite the issues, the Infill Housing Plan of the late 1960s and early 70s was a failure. One piece of a larger political and civic effort in the 1960s and 70s to revitalize declining U.S. neighborhoods following the creation of President Lyndon Johnson’s HUD in 1965, the Infill Housing program, like many other HUD-run projects, failed for a number of reasons: overzealous private contractors who promised too much too quickly; building materials whose cost inflated in the run up to construction, especially for precast concrete; an absence of on-site security; and, perhaps most tellingly, a lack of serious support from local residents. The Boston Globe found fault within the very structure of HUD itself. “Money flowed into the cities during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s,” one 1977 article reads, “but the expertise needed to make the programs work (proper inspection of homes whose mortgages were to be federally insured, and educating the poor, first-time homeowner and provisions for escalating costs) did not come built into the programs.”

Please share your memories of the Infill Housing Program’s controversial history in the comment section below. What do you remember?


  • *Roxbury neighborhood housing initiative  map courtesy Boston Public Library Government Documents and the Internet Archive, n.d., http://www.archive.org/details/roxburyneighborh00bost.
  • “Mrs. Hicks Denounces ‘Infill’ Housing Plan.” The Boston Globe 17 November 1969: 3. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • Ellis, David R. “Hub Council OK’s ‘Infill’ Housing; Rips White.” The Boston Globe 15 October 1968: 8. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • Flynn, Raymond L. “Roxbury Neighborhood Housing Initiative.” 1986.
  • Hartnett, Ken. “A failure in cooperative housing.” The Boston Globe 29 April 1976: 23. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • Osgood, Viola. “HUD housing a blight on city.” The Boston Globe 14 April 1977: 3. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • Rogers, David. “The Fall of Infill: Vacant lot housing program bankrupt, but salvage plans continue.” The Boston Globe 7 October 1973: A1. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • Yudis, Anthony J. “First Duplex Built in South End ‘Infill’ Housing Program.” The Boston Sunday Globe 8 September 1968: 44. Boston Globe Archive. Web.
  • ———. “‘Infill’ Housing Plan Receives Complaints.” The Boston Globe 20 April 1969: 36. Boston Globe Archive. Web.

Elliot Norton Reviews: Israeli Plays at Brandeis, 1980

by Jessica Green

As an intern at WGBH, I have watched over 50 episodes of the Elliot Norton Reviews in an effort to catalogue the successful series of theater-related interviews that ran from 1958 to 1982. While I have come across several plays that I am all too familiar with, including Richard III, The Threepenny Opera, Annie, The King and I, Pirates of Penzance, and The Elephant Man, I am grateful to have also been introduced to many plays that may have otherwise never crossed my path. Endgame at Kiryat Gat is one of the more interesting plays I have been exposed to and wish to share with all of you.

On March 4, 1980, Elliot Norton interviewed director Nola Chilton and actors Scott Richards and Ellen Finholt about two plays at the Spingold Theatre at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA in an episode of the Elliot Norton Reviews titled “Israeli Plays at Brandeis.” Naim is based on the novel, “The Lover,” by A.B. Yehoshua and adapted by Nola Chilton; Endgame at Kiryat Gat is based on a short story of the same name by John Auerbach, and adapted by Nola Chilton and Itzik Weingarten.

Coat of Arms, Kiryat Gat. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Perhaps because of my undying love for Samuel Beckett, I was immediately drawn to Endgame at Kiryat Gat, which takes place in an actual development town in the Negev Desert. Chilton explains to Norton that the Moroccan Jewswho immigrated to this town in the 1950s, came from a culture based on agriculture. As they developed into an industrial town, however, the second generation became quite different from the first.

She goes on to talk about the relevance of this play in regards to the current relationship between the European or Ashkenazi Jews and the influx of Moroccan Jews, which she referred to as “Oriental Jews.” In her opinion, the relationship between the two groups was becoming strained as the “Oriental Jews” were beginning to outnumber the European Jews as 55% of the population. Of this turbulent relationship, she tells Norton, “Where people are, there cannot be equality. Where people are, there’s conflict and there’s a kind of struggle and there is always a confrontation and I think that the healthy survive. And that’s our only hope.” Since this episode aired, a large population of Jews from the former Soviet Union immigrated to this town in the 1990’s.

Chilton explains that the play is about several members of this second generation of Moroccan Jews, who set up a little theater in an effort to bring respect to their family’s name. Scott Richards plays the theater director and Ellen Finholt’s husband. In Chilton’s words, “a crazy hippy American” comes wandering through town and has the idea that he can get the theater to put on Samuel Beckett’s play, Endgame. He believes this modern generation of Moroccan Jews can relate to the “nowhereness, pain, and suffering” in the play. He does his best to change them, break them down, and make them feel these things. In the end, however, they are strong and he is the one that breaks down in sorrow and emptiness.

What message do you take from this play?
How might this play be performed differently today, over 30 years later?
Can you see another setting that would work for this type of plot?