Cataloging Old Wazzu: AAPB and Northwest Public Television

This post was written by Caitlin Sanders, student at Simmons College and intern at the AAPB.

As a longtime fan of public television (from “Arthur” to “Masterpiece”), and a current graduate student studying archives and library science at Simmons College, I feel fortunate to have spent this past fall as a cataloging intern for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, at the beautiful WGBH studio headquarters. Despite this amazing and surreal experience, being in Boston does not mean I never get homesick for my native state of Washington. Therefore, I was extremely pleased with the project I was assigned: describing videos from Northwest Public Television (KWSU/KTNW), a public broadcasting station associated with Washington State University.

You don’t have to be a “coug” to appreciate archival programming from this station. Content varies from lecture series coverage, to dramatic re-enactments, to concerts and sports coverage. I might also add that its videos of moose (including the famous Morty) and of black bear cubs frolicking about the academic campus are among the most adorable animal videos that I have seen in quite some time.

In all seriousness, the significance of this collection should not be undermined. Alone and together, these videos work to tell the story of Washington state’s past. Difficult subjects, such as the 1979 bombing of the Streit-Perham residence hall, are documented for posterity with forensic footage of the ruined building. Reflections on national disasters, such as the environmental impact of the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, can be referred to in the event of future catastrophe. Washington State University’s programming is also important in its attempt to include more voices in the presentation of history. Local interviews from the PBS series “Our Neighbors’ Stories” record the experiences of African Americans who worked at the Hanford site as part of the Manhattan Project. Similarly, “South by Northwest: Blacks in the Pacific Northwest” is an earnest attempt to accessibly dramatize the experiences of African Americans as they moved to the Pacific Northwest. Even if the 1976-1981 series occasionally shows its age, it nonetheless stands as a record for a perspective often untold in standard American history classes.

I am proud to announce that these videos are now all cataloged, many can be viewed in the AAPB Online Reading Room, and all of them are available on location at WGBH and the Library of Congress. I encourage you to check them out!

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