Riley Griffin, Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at GPB

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When we toured WGBH, we took turns holding an Emmy Award trophy (Image: Riley Griffin, author, holding an Emmy Award)

Hi, everyone!  My name is Riley Griffin (xe/xir).  I am just now entering my second year of graduate school in Clayton State University’s Masters of Archival Studies program.  I am the second fellow, after Virginia Angles, to be a part of the American Archives of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF).  My part of the project focused on digitizing Georgia Public Broadcasting’s (GPB) Georgia Gazette under the incredibly trusting supervision of Ellen Reinhardt, Kathy Christensen, and Joshua Kitchens.  I was looking for summer opportunities when a chance at following a career path in my new-found love for preservation presented itself through the AAPBPBPF.  I was overjoyed by the scope of the fellowship, the organizations working with it, and the special collections it included.

Every fellowship starts with certain expectations only to end with different lessons and new perspectives.  At the start of my fellowship, I spent a lot of time comparing. There were a lot of things I was not expecting, my reactions being one of them.  As we visited Boston and learned about all the different types of digital media we could be working with I couldn’t help but begin to feel this sort of jealousy–wishing I could work with as many formats and topics as possible.

Of course, this hunger decreased to a low rumble as I became humbled by the Georgia Gazette materials.  I quickly realized I craved difficulty; so, I became grateful instead of jealous.  In training, we were prepared to scrub and scrub our machines clean, take precious time delicately fixing things, and balance everything to be just perfect.  However, my project was given a bit of grace by being a more modern collection. Digital Audio Tapes (DATs) are often considered one of the most fragile media formats. However, most of them were recorded at a decent quality from the 1990’s to the 2000’s, rewound to the beginning, and left alone and undisturbed in an air-conditioned radio station.  So, please forgive me when I am grateful that the worst of my worries is how many times I dropped the (very loose) pinch roller into the machine that day.

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GPB Digitization Station (Image: Two desks with 2 computers, a DAT machine, cleaning materials, and various electronics everywhere)

The topics of everyone’s materials had me curious, too.  I was wondering what it was like to have video–as my project was only audio–and to have materials like oral histories to work with.  I quickly counted my blessings as I heard what my colleague was working on–images of war, tragedy, death, and disaster. I thanked GPB for having forward attitudes towards topics, reporters who were nearly-emotionless in comparison, and pert news reports.  I am a very sensitive soul and could imagine having to wait the tears out before being able to see what you’re working on. I also realized I was having a hard time with some of the Georgia Gazette material.  One thing I experience as an archivist who moves all over is major culture shock.  I think being an archivist is one of the best ways to learn about the place you have just moved to. But it also exposes you to things much quicker than you expect.

I’m from upstate New York, which has a different demographic and historical context; although I’m not unfamiliar with racism, being deeply embedded in Georgia’s racial history as I digitized GPB’s daily news was a new experience for me. I had moments of weeping at work as I listened to news reports about the Georgia General Assembly holding expensive special sessions in order to redistrict purely based on race, schoolchildren being prevented from going the schools they want as a result of segregation, and segregation’s long-term effects on Georgia school districts, which I still hear about today. Although I knew about these issues in the abstract, hearing them firsthand was very emotional for me and adding visuals might have been overwhelming.

I would be lying if I were to say I came away from this project without any further attachment to Georgia.  Although it has exposed me to some of the ugly parts I try to avoid in my daily life, it has also exposed me to so much more.  Even the drive to work showed me the oldest drive-in movie theater in the area that is still working.   I also got the opportunity to listen to all of the preparation and execution of the 1996 Olympics.  I am a huge fan of all things Olympics, so

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Indeed, this was the “WORST Gazette ever” (Image: close-up of a DAT labelled “Maxell DAT; Gazette 01-20 95; WORST Gazette ever”)

this was a special treat for me. The Georgia Gazette has given me a sort of pseudo-pride of Georgia; every guest and topic on the show had a relation to Georgia.  Learning about popular historical figures like Blind Tom Wiggins or popular events like the National Grits Festival in Warwick gives me a great appreciation for where I live and the opportunities available to me here.  It has also given me a deeper and fuller appreciation for public broadcasting, something that had already been instilled in me.  In a time where everyone is flocking to Georgia for jobs, often displacing long-term Georgians, I remind myself that my brief time being here must be purposeful.  I hope to help make their history more accessible so that they can feel that true sense of pride they deserve.  With the Georgia Gazette, I hope I did just that–even if it was just a little bit.

 

Written by Riley Griffin, PBPF Summer 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

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