Digitizing Gulf Coast Public Media at WSRE: An On-the-Ground Report from PBPF Fellow Melissa Anthony

Hey y’all, I’m Melissa Anthony, a graduate student with the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies (UA SLIS) and one of the first four UA SLIS students to participate in the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF). Over the course of the 2019 fall semester, I have worked as a PBPF Fellow, representing both UA and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) at my local public television station, WSRE, in Pensacola, Florida. WSRE was established in 1967 and currently serves the 1.5 million residents of the Gulf Coast from Destin, FL in the east to the Alabama/Mississippi state line in the west. During the fellowship, I inventoried and prepared locally produced programming for inclusion in the AAPB. I want to share with you some of my experiences and a few interesting episodes that can be found in the WSRE Pensacola collection within the AAPB.

Melissa’s digitization station at WSRE

After attending a week-long training event put on by representatives from the AAPB, where I was able to familiarize myself with the archival process, digitization equipment, and relevant metadata standards, I was excited and nervous to get to work at WSRE. My first task was to conduct an inventory of three locally-produced programs that WSRE felt would be worthwhile contributions to the AAPB. The first is called AWARE and it explores the varied cultural interests of the many ethnic communities throughout Northwest Florida and coastal Alabama. The second, Connecting the Community, is a weekly, half-hour public affairs show. The third is Food for Thought, a monthly program that explores a variety of topics by featuring select speakers, civic presentations, and enlightening events throughout Northwest Florida. After inventorying all of the tapes containing these three programs, I selected which episodes would be digitized based on the AAPB guidelines and my time constraints and then I got busy digitizing.

Digitization involved playing the tape on a tape deck that was connected to a device that converts the audio and video signals into a digital signal which was then sent to my laptop where it was saved as a movie file. I would then run the file through a program that ensured the quality of the video and audio were up to the AAPB’s standards. I also recorded lots of metadata (information about an item) to describe the contents of the tape that had just been digitized. By the end of the fellowship, I had digitized 80 episodes with a total run-time of just over 51 hours. All of these files and metadata were eventually sent to the AAPB so they could add WSRE’s contributions to their online archive.

The episodes from WSRE cover a wide range of topics from environmental issues to health and wellness  to politics and beyond. One episode of AWARE features actress Mzuri Moto portraying civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer in short vignettes. Connecting the Community has an episode celebrating the 50th anniversary of the U.S. landing a plane at the South Pole in which they speak with the pilot from that flight, Lt. Cmdr. Conrad C. “Gus”  Shinn. Last, but not least, Food For Thought shares many interesting lectures from a variety of experts, one of whom discusses the neuroscience behind how our brain maps the space around our bodies.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a PBPF Fellow. I developed useful skills to use in my career as a technical services librarian and I feel like I helped preserve a little bit of my local culture and history. Feel free to check out the collection of WSRE programs that I digitized, now available on the AAPB website!

This post was written by Melissa Anthony, University of Alabama Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellow at WSRE in Pensacola, Florida.

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