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American Archive: A new online “reading room” of historical public media

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 2.17.51 PMTo honor the UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB)–a collaboration between WGBH and the Library of Congress-today announced the launch of its Online Reading Room.  The collection preserves significant historical public media content and makes it discoverable and searchable.  More than 100 public media organizations share content from the past 70 years, resources that “for decades have gathered dust on shelves.”

In addition to national, local news and public affairs, there is something here for nearly every secondary educator.  This five-minute introduction, written and produced by Elizabeth Deane, offers a taste of the treasures in this rich collection.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.20.17 PMIn the press release, WGBH Vice Chairman Henry Becton shared:

The collective archives of public media contain an unparalleled audio and video record of the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. These treasures of our times aren’t available elsewhere and it’s essential that we preserve them and make them available as widely as possible.”

You’ll find such gems as a 1956 interview with Rosa Parks during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and New England Public Radio’s 1974 debate between Representative Martha Griffiths, sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly, the movement’s major opponent.

You’ll find such full public television series as: Vietnam: A Television History and The American Experience. You’ll also find a lot of locally produced and locally relevant content.

The search feature allows users to filter for media type, genre, topic, asset type, organization, year and access type. Also browsable by theme, the collection covers a huge array of themes, such as:

The portal also features three curated historical exhibits:

  • Voices from the Southern Civil Rights Movement: “educational and noncommercial radio programs from the 1950s and 1960s that offer historic testimonies – in interviews, speeches, and on-the-spot news reports – from many movement participants, both well-known and unknown. National leaders, local leaders, community organizers, students, clergy, lawyers, educators, academics, writers, and even a comedian and a documentary filmmaker relate often riveting stories that document a range of individual and group experiences and perspectives. The exhibit presents accounts from a variety of locales, each a distinct piece of the complex history of the struggle to integrate the segregated South and achieve full citizenship rights for African Americans.”
  • Climate Change Conversations: Causes, Impacts, Solutions:  “programming and recordings focused on climate change have been organized in six sections to highlight the various conversations and topics covered by public broadcasting, from as early as 1970, the beginning of what is often considered the environmental decade, through today.”
  • Documenting and Celebrating Public Broadcasting Station Histories:  Highlights content that documents specific station’s histories.

You may also be interested in the Internet Archive’s TV News.

Thanks to Gary Price of InfoDocket for this lead!



Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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