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

Robert the Intern's Story: Introduction

by Robert Johnson

My internship at the WGBH Media Library and Archives came about when I was unable to take a course on moving image collections so someone suggested I set up an independent study with the WGBH.  After a few e-mails and a preliminary meeting in May, starting in early September I began taking the T and a bus to WGBH twice a week.

Growing up in Connecticut, I am sure I occasionally watched WGBH or at least saw programs it produced, like The New Yankee Workshop.  But I have never been a big follower of public television.  These days I watch History Detectives (produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting) and Hometime (produced in part by WHYY, Wilmington/Philadelphia) on whichever PBS station is running them.  Not that it really mattered.  The opportunity to intern at a television station’s archive was thrilling.

Having never worked with moving images before perhaps the biggest challenge was shifting from a mindset of finding aids (documents best used to describe collections of manuscripts) to one of databases.  WGBH does not use finding aids.  They use databases.  They have one very big one and a number of smaller, more specific ones for individual projects/collections.  The big one is actually four separate databases that often overlap.  Or at least that is the way I understand it.  It has been difficult at times trying to understand how anyone can keep track of anything when information is spread across four interrelated databases but somehow everyone here manages just fine.

I was given a tour of the “Vault” when I first started.  It is a secure, climate-controlled room with movable shelves that holds a portion of WGBH’s films, videotapes and related documents.  There is also an off-site storage area that I have been told is an interesting place to visit.  Much of what goes on here is a bit of a mystery to me, particularly the media library portion of the Media Library and Archives.  I have been able to sit in on quite a few meetings and even participated in a few, albeit briefly and probably not all that helpfully.  I get to work in my very own cubicle, which is a first for me, and I have a nice WGBH security card that opens a good number of doors.  I hope I get to keep it when I finish.

Notes from AMIA 2010

Last week several staffers from the WGBH Media Library & Archives attended the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archives in Philadelphia. Always a productive time for us, we presented, worked, networked, enjoyed rare archival film screenings, and consumed many a cheesesteak!

cheese steak

Our director Karen Cariani chaired two popular sessions – one which featured a panel of funders discussing their priorities for funding moving image projects, and one which featured legal experts discussing the challenges faced by archivists trying to make materials accessible online.

WGBH Legal’s Jay Fialkov provided an overview of copyright and Christopher Bavitz of Harvard’s Berkman Center presented on their work for our Boston TV News Digital Library: 1960-2000. Chris outlined 4 sections of law which the Berkman report will address: copyright, trademark, state law (privacy, defamation, etc.) and contract law. Both panels were well received for their practical bent and slides from the copyright panel available here:

Opening the Archives for Access
Jay Fialkov – Understanding Copyright Barriers (ppt)
Christopher Bavitz – Legal Issues for Media Archivists (ppt)

Other highlights of the conference included a strong presence by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Archive Initiative, the opportunity to network with our public broadcasting colleagues from Wisconsin to Louisiana and a visit to WHYY, Philadelphia public media station, to discuss our American Archive Content Inventory Project.

Read more about the conference in this Philadelphia Inquirer article, “Film restorers focus on timeless home movies at Phila. convention.”

Listen to ENTIRE 1963 March on Washington

On Open Vault you can listen to full coverage from the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963 and ended with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Visit the March on Washington collection page to learn more.

This collection, funded with a grant from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures program, includes coverage of approximately 18 hours of the day’s events, with expert commentary and interviews sprinkled throughout. Not only will you find King’s “Dream” speech, but you can also listen to all of the other speakers from the day: Dick Gregory, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, to name a few. It also includes the musical performances by Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Odetta and Peter, Paul and Mary.

The details of this historic day are sometimes forgotten in the shadow of King’s great speech… but the March On Washington Collection documents the full event, bringing to light the important details and nuances that made up the March experience:

Standing before the Lincoln Memorial on the 28th of August in the Centennial Year of Emancipation, I affirm my complete personal commitment to the struggle for jobs and freedom for all Americans. To fulfill that commitment, I pledge that I will not relax until victory is won.

I pledge that I will join and support all actions undertaken in good faith and in accord with the time honored Democratic tradition of non-violent protest, of peaceful assembly and petition and to address through the courts and the legislative process. I pledge to carry the message of the march to my friends and neighbors back home, and to arouse them to an equal commitment and an equal effort.

I will march and I will write letters. I will demonstrate and I will vote. I will work to make sure that my voice and those of my brothers ring clear and determined from every corner of our land.

I pledge my heart and my mind and my body unequivocally and without regard to personal sacrifice to the achievement of social peace through social justice.

Listening to the day’s events let’s you imagine you were there. How might it have felt to be there? Which speaker and singers would you have remembered? Who would you have met on the mall next to you? How might the March have inspired your own activism or attitude?

Mellon Project Report: Media Digital Library for Scholars

The WGBH Media Library & Archives completed a digital library prototype project in December, 2009. With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we worked closely with three scholars to discover how they would want to search, access and make use of archival moving image materials online. (This project built on an earlier Assessment for Scholarly Use.)

The prototype is still live at though you will notice that many of the features developed there have since been further refined and integrated into this site.

The project also included sustainability research conducted by Ithaka’s Strategy and Research team.

Read the final project report, detailing work accomplished, lessons learned, and future directions for the MLA online.

We welcome your comments and suggestions!

The Advocates tackle the Pentagon Papers, 1971

At the height of the Vietnam war, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg was accused of leaking the “Pentagon Papers” to the press. The Pentagon Papers, swiftly published by The New York Times, consisted of copies of a classified report with the official title of United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. They documented how the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations misled the American public and were not forthcoming with forecasts about the outcomes of the war in Vietnam.

Ellsberg shared the document with Times writer Neil Sheehan who began to publish excerpts in June, 1971. Nixon issued a court order demanding the Times cease publication of the documents. This was quickly followed by the Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), which resulted in victory for the Times and for the First Amendment of the Constitution. Ellsberg, however was not off the hook. He surrended to authorities who charged him with conspiracy and theft under the Espionage Act of 1917.

Open Vault’s newly released episode of The Advocates features contemporary scholars and pundits debating the validity of these continuing charges against Daniel Ellsberg. They debate the merits of government secrecy vs. transparency and whether openness in government threatens national security… check it out!

The Advocates:
“Should The Government Drop The Charges Against Daniel Ellsberg?”

Vietnam Collection Publicized on WGBH Radio, 89.7 FM

To publicize the launch of the Vietnam Collection on Open Vault, WGBH producer Elizabeth Deane (American Experience, Latin Music USA, Vietnam: A Television History) and archivist Karen Colbron selected several sound excerpts from the collection for use in 60 second radio “interstitials”

Deane then worked with WGBH Radio producer Gary Mott to edit and broadcast the clips over the course of 4 weeks in April, culminating in the following clip airing on the collection launch day, April 30th, 2010, which was also the 35th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon:

Clark Clifford, Former Secretary of Defense for President Johnson, 1981

Listen to the interstitial | View the full interview

Clark Clifford“It is my belief that our country made a mistake by going into Vietnam. I think we would have done better to stay out. We could have watched it a while and had we watched it longer, I think we would have seen it more clearly… We made an honest mistake. I feel no sense of shame about it. Nor, should our country feel any sense of shame. We felt we were doing what was necessary. We had nothing to gain by going in. We asked for no territory. We asked for no advantage. We went in because we thought we were doing it for the purposes of the nations involved and really for all humanity. It proved not to be a sound basis.”

Other clips included:

62 years ago this week… the Berlin Airlift

This week marks the anniversary of the Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union. Often cited as the first event of the Cold War, the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin cut off communication and ground supply lines to West Berlin, leaving 2.5 million people without access to food or fuel.

In response, the United States launched the Berlin Airlift; for 10 months the US Air Force and its allies in the Royal Air Force of Britain airlifted supplies into Berlin. Also known as “Operation Vittles,” the first C-47 involved in the effort took off for Berlin on June 26, 1948. That day, 80 tons of milk, flour and medical supplies were delivered.

Open Vault’s contemporary newsreel excerpt describes and celebrates the amazing logistics of loading aircraft for takeoff every three minutes, 24 hours a day, effectively creating an “air bridge” to Berlin. This footage was originally collected by a WGBH production team for the 1989 documentary series War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.

To respond with ground troops could have launched World War III. Instead, this massive humanitarian effort fostered great affection and publicity for the Allies, a victory, in what has been called “the first battle of the Cold War.”

For more information check out :

New Project: The Boston TV News Digital Library

The Boston TV News Digital Library is an IMLS funded project in partnership with Northeast Historic Film, Cambridge Community Television, and the Boston Public Library. The official title is “The Boston TV News Digital Library: 1960-2000” and it will be the first online resource providing a city’s commercial, noncommercial, and community cable TV news heritage to educators and the public. The project will publish the news collections from these institutions. This includes news footage from WGBH, WCVB, WHDH, UPN 38, and CCTV. The project will also work with WGBH’s Teachers’ Domain to enable access to the materials in classrooms.

We are seeking financial support for this project. If you are interested in donating, we encourage you to support Open Vault. If you are interested in learning more about the Boston TV News Digital Library, please contact us.



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Vietnam Collection Launched!

Today, on the 35th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, WGBH Media Library and Archives launches the Open Vault Vietnam Collection, an online video library drawn exclusively from the 1983 landmark WGBH series, VIETNAM: A TELEVISION HISTORY.

The Vietnam Collection contains hours of rare archival footage and in-depth interviews with key decision makers and veterans on both sides of the conflict, as well as enhanced tools to interact the media. This two-year project is a collaboration between WGBH Media Library and Archives, the University of Massachusetts/Boston (UMB), and the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL).

To coincide with the launch of this collection, WGBH’s Digital Mural is featuring images from the collection today!