Archival Screening: A Retrospective on WGBH and Experimental Television, 1968-1970

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The WGBH Media Library and Archives team has begun hosting quarterly archives screenings in 2019 as part of the WGBH Insiders Screening Series. Last week’s screening offered a unique look into WGBH’s role as one of the first public media stations to explore television as an artistic medium. Over 100 members and guests screened segments from video art works created between 1968 and 1970, including What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?; Madness and Intuition, The Medium is the Medium, and Violence Sonata.

Panelists included:

• Fred Barzyk, the original producer of WGBH’s series New Television Workshop

• George Fifield, Founder and Director of Boston Cyberarts Inc.

• Aldo Tambellini, Multimedia artist who created work for WGBH/Public Broadcasting Laboratory’s 1969 production called The Medium is the Medium

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From left to right: Peter Higgins, Ryn Marchese, Fred Barzyk, and George Fifield


The event was moderated by Ryn Marchese, Engagement and Use Manager for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, and Peter Higgins, Archives Manager at WGBH Media Library and Archives. Digital Archives Manager Leah Weisse curated an exhibit of relevant production and promotional materials to provide context to the evening’s focus. MLA thanks Elizabeth Hagyard for her support and collaboration on the event, as well as other staff in events, legal, marketing, and engineering, and WGBH volunteers who helped make the night a success!


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Leah Weisse, WGBH Archives Manager


Event slide deck:

We’re moving! 15,000 boxes, that is!


Ever wonder what 15,000 boxes looks like? It’s likely that you haven’t, but if you check out the video below, you’ll find out!

The WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA) just began the process of moving our off-site storage to a new location. Our off-site storage unit currently stores 15,000 boxes, or 400,000 items, within 8,000 square feet. While our WGBH vault stores our master-level programs and original materials, the archival records held in our off-site storage include all of our non-master, or circulating films and tapes, as well as over 60 years of administrative and legal records. Each box needs to be removed from its shelf; transported from the current location (shown in the video above) to the new location; and then placed in the exact same order as they were in the original location. Maintaining the original order allows our archivists to continue to record and monitor the exact location of each item, ensuring that we maintain efficient circulation of these materials for our producers, researchers, and other staff.

Peter Higgins, Archives Manager, with assistance from Rebecca “Becky” Philio, Archivist, is leading this important effort to protect WGBH’s archival records and materials and securely transfer them to the new location. The move will be completed within the next several weeks, and we’ll look forward to showing you the “after” photos and videos!


To be continued…

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.

Please Support Public Media: It’s our History

The WGBH Media Library and Archives is dependent on a strong public media system to continue to provide safe keeping and access to historic programming.

However, the proposed budget cut to eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting puts public media at risk. This federal investment in public media is the stabilizing core that makes it possible to create educational programs, serve as a trusted source of in-depth and informative journalism, and share the vital insights of science, history, and culture — all free to the public. And if stations and programming are at risk, the archive and access to this history is also at risk.

Federal funding for public broadcasting represents less than 1/100th of one percent of the federal budget, while PBS is watched by 82 percent of U.S. households. It’s one of America’s best investments, costing only $1.35 per citizen each year. That’s right: $1.35. A true bargain!

It is time to speak up. More than ever, your voice can make a difference. If you would like to show your support for this important issue, please visit to both sign a petition to support continued funding and to find information about the ways public media serves our communities. Let your friends and family know how important public media is to you and watch for updates with additional information on how you can help.

Many thanks from all of us at the WGBH Media Library and Archives.

Karen Cariani
Senior Director, WGBH Media Library and Archives


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!?

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:

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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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!