A Day In the Life of NET

Hi there! We’re part of the National Educational Television (NET) collection at the Library of Congress’s National Audiovisual Conservation Center (NAVCC) – maybe you’ve heard of us? Recently, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded the AAPB to complete the NET Collection Catalog Project, whereby some nifty catalogers are working to create fabulous descriptions of programs distributed by NET (1952-1972, which makes up some of the earliest public television content!). People know so little about us because, up until now, we’ve been stored in unprocessed collections! So we’re looking to get makeovers, too. We are happy here, NAVCC has optimal storage facilities for us – we’re stored at a cool 50 degrees with 30% relative humidity – but we would like it if people could find us more easily.

To give you a better idea of just what processing a film title in the collection entails, we’re going to give you an inside look. The first part of our journey? Getting pulled from the stacks, of course! When we’re pulled, we make our way down from the shelves, onto an obliging cart, and are rolled out of the vaults. Yippee!

But because we like it chilly, we don’t appreciate temperature shock. So we get wheeled into the acclimatization room, where we can get adjusted to the new climes.

After gradually thawing out, we get picked up. Today’s the big day, we’re getting processed today!

Quick, time to make a break for it!!

We find our way here, to a work bench, where the magic happens.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up. We get pulled, one by one from the cart. But you can find a lot of great metadata on us, so all that info gets written down first for input into our collection database system later.

Sometimes when you open us up, there’s a prize inside! No, not of the Cracker Jack variety – these prizes come in the form of broadcast histories and/or condition assessments. They get re-foldered and stored safely away, too, but hey, this is about us, the NET film!

We get placed up on the spindle, ready to wind! (Good thing Sleeping Beauty isn’t a film archivist, whew.)

We’re going to transfer from an old reel onto a slick, plastic “core.” The core (you can see cores stored in the boxes below the bench) is fixed inside the split reel on the right.

When we’ve been wound through, I end up on the right now, wrapped around a core.

How embarrassing! Look away!

Like a beautiful butterfly, now that we’ve been transformed, we shed the old reel and accompanying film can (that is, they are promptly disposed of).


I’m then rehoused into a – blue, blue, ‘lectric blue (that’s the color of my room) – plastic can.

And I’m taken over to a computer, to complete my cataloging in the collection database system MAVIS.

And now for my favorite part! I get labeled with a Library of Congress item barcode, new rack number, and a snazzy title label so people can find me again!

Now I’m all set! Ahhh 1331 – I’ve always liked the sound of a palindrome. Now I’m headed back to the vaults to get some well-deserved shut-eye. Later!

This post was written by Susie Booth, NET Cataloger at NAVCC, on behalf of the NET film.

17k for 2017

AAPB is kicking off the new year by adding a lot more content to our Online Reading Room. We now have more than 17,000 historic public broadcasting programs available for anyone in the United States to watch or listen to on our site!

Highlights from the newly available recordings include:


Episodes of WHUT’s Evening Exchange, including this episode on The Future of the Black Family (see left). Evening Exchange is a series featuring discussions with “writers, philosophers and newsmakers whose work offers insight into the black community.”

  • Episodes of the children’s radio series, Afield with Ranger Mac, which was broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio as part of the Wisconsin School of the Air.
  • A speech by a United Mine Workers of America official recorded for the Appalshop documentary UMWA 1970: A House Divided.
  • Episodes of WFMU’s series Wasted Vinyl, including this interview with Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.modoc
  • A locally-produced chronicle of the Modoc War (1872 – 1873) and Modoc leader, Captain Jack from Southern Oregon Public Television’s collection (see right).
  • Episodes of Iowa Press, including this one about Rural Poverty. Iowa Press is a news talk show, featuring an in-depth news report on one topic each episode, followed by a conversation between experts on the issue.

Overall, the new content in the ORR includes recordings from 23 different organizations across the country:

We are very excited to continue making more historic public media available again to the American public, helping to fulfill public media’s mission to enlighten, inspire, and educate its audiences.

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!

List of Early Public Television Content: An NET Project Update

We are excited to post lists of NET Series Titles and Individual Program Titles on the AAPB website, as part of the National Educational Television (NET) Collection Catalog Project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). To read more about the history and significance of NET, public television’s first national programming network, check out our September update.

To begin this project, we needed to determine what content should be part of the “NET Collection.” Since there is no single complete list of programs distributed by NET, we’ve been working very hard to cobble together the most comprehensive list possible. So far we’ve compared titles from:

  • NET’s Program files
  • NET’s Flexible Service Catalog
  • WGBH databases
  • Library of Congress original inventory printouts
  • Additional inventories created for and by the Library of Congress and PBS

From these sources, we’ve gathered additional metadata. Often we could identify broadcast years, producers, runtimes, original formats and color. We’ve included this information in our title lists, and we’re hoping it will help institutions identify any NET content held in their collections.

The next phase of the project is locating NET media assets at archives and public media organizations across the country. In the next few months we’ll add episode title information to the Series Title list and contact institutions with NET content, as well as all previous producing stations. As we locate relevant materials, we’ll build inventory level records and add them to our database. By the end of the project, people will be able to see where copies of the content exist, and we’ll be able to better prioritize digitization and preservation efforts. If you have NET materials in your collection, we’d really appreciate it if you reached out to us. You can contact Sadie Roosa at sadie_roosa@wgbh.org.

Cataloging the Earliest Public Television Content: An NET Project Update

In January 2015, we announced that WGBH and the Library of Congress, on behalf of the AAPB, were awarded a grant by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to catalog the National Educational Television (NET) programs. We’re so excited to be working on this project to further the mission of the AAPB, to preserve and make accessible significant historic content created by public media and to coordinate a national effort to save it before it is lost to posterity.

NET was public television’s first national programming network, the precursor to PBS, and NET titles are among public media’s earliest and most at-risk content. The NET Collection includes 8,000–10,000 programs produced by more than 30 stations across the country from 1952-1972, a period marked by societal and cultural shifts of great importance. Public television itself changed significantly during this time. From its early dedication to childhood and adult education, NET by 1963 transitioned to serving adult audiences with documentaries exploring citizenship issues of urgency and cultural programming dedicated to the arts, humanities and sciences.

NET programs often covered internationally relevant topics and events, including new scientific research, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the treatment of prisoners in America, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the environment, various new approaches to human psychology, senior citizens, poverty, space exploration, and critical analysis of modern art.

In our previous digitization project, the earliest video formats that we digitized were 3/4-inch. The majority of the NET collection is on 16mm film, 2″ and 1″ videotape, and copies exist at multiple locations including the Library of Congress, Indiana University, WNET, WGBH and other stations that produced for NET. Before we can prioritize these materials for digitization and preservation, we need to know what the titles are, where they exist and who has the best copy.

We have been working hard on the first phase of the project, which includes developing a complete title list, or at least one that’s as complete as possible. We’ve gathered titles and other descriptive information from a variety of sources including:
● WGBH databases
● Library of Congress’s original inventory printouts
● Microfiche of NET program records
● NET’s Flexible Service Catalog
● Additional inventories created at the Library of Congress and PBS

The majority of these were only available on paper, some even on handwritten lists. We were able to OCR a few sources, while others had to be manually transcribed. Once we had the titles from each source stored electronically, we were able to compare them with each other. The resulting list includes more than 500 series, with over 8,500 episodes, as well as over 800 individually broadcast programs. We’re working on getting the list ready to publish on the AAPB website, so that collection holders and NET-era producers will be able to see which titles NET distributed, and see if any of these titles exist in their own collections.

Starting with an authoritative title list is important because it will help us clear up potential duplication of titles and duplicated preservation efforts. One possible source of duplication is that some pieces ended up airing multiple times but under different series. In situations like these, we will have one record for the content and assign that record multiple series titles and NOLA codes, since the content itself was the same each time it was broadcast.

The authoritative title list also helps us keep track of what was and wasn’t distributed by NET. Now that we have this information, we’ve started going through the existing inventory records in the AAPB and pulling out records for NET titles. This is a good starting place for the ultimate goal of the project, which is to create a catalog of NET titles that describes the content and also tracks where copies of the content exist across the country. Based on a cursory analysis, we believe that over 60% of the NET titles exist in the inventories of at least one of the AAPB participating organizations. We’re hoping to increase that number by reaching out to other stations and archives with NET materials.

While we work on getting together more information to share with you, if you have any questions please reach out to the NET project coordinator Sadie Roosa at sadie_roosa@wgbh.org.

President Johnson’s Thanksgiving Speech, 1963

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope everyone’s celebrations will be wonderful this year.

In remembrance of Thanksgivings past, we want to share this historic audio clip with you today. On November 28th 1963, newly sworn in president Lyndon B. Johnson, delivered a speech honoring president John F. Kennedy, who had died just a week earlier. His message is one of thanks and hope, as he details the coming together of the American people and the people of the world, in the face of such a tragedy. As part of his address, he says,

Portrait of President Johnson
Official White House Portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson. By Elizabeth Shoumatoff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“A great leader is dead. A great nation must move on. Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose. I am resolved that we shall win the tomorrows before us. So I ask you to join me in that resolve, determined that from this midnight of tragedy we shall move toward a new American greatness. More than any generation before us, we have cause to be thankful, so thankful, on this Thanksgiving Day. Our harvests are bountiful, our factories flourish, our homes are safe, our defenses are secure. We live in peace. The goodwill of the world pours out for us. 



Listen to the entire speech: 

This audio came to the AAPB as part of a WGBH radio broadcast that was recorded onto ¼ inch audio tape. It was digitized as part of the 40,000 hours of digitization funded by CPB.

This post was written by Sadie Roosa, AAPB team member at WGBH.

Interim Access Portal

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting is pleased to announce our new (interim) discovery portal to access inventory records.

Interim Access Portal Homepage
Homepage of the Interim Access Portal

These records were created during the CPB-funded and WGBH-managed American Archive Content Inventory Project (AACIP), an inventory effort to gather item-level PBCore data from legacy at-risk audiovisual assets obtained from public media stations across the nation: from KEXP in Seattle to Unalaska Community Broadcasting to Ozarks Public Broadcasting. Public media stations then selected video and audio from their own collections for digitization, many local programs never seen before except by immediate geographic communities.

While the American Archive of Public Broadcasting wraps up the digitization of these 40,000 hours of selected content, begins cataloging the digitized material and developing our digital archive website, we’re excited to offer access to the almost 2.5 million records collected as part of the AACIP, now available through the Interim Access Portal.

An example of search results from the Interim Access Portal.
An example of search results from the Interim Access Portal.

Almost all of these records were created before stations or archivists had the capability of playing back the content stored on increasingly obsolete video and audio formats. The now-in-progress digitization of 40,000 hours of this content will allow catalogers to view and fully describe the content. So if you don’t find what you’re looking for now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This data might be irregular at the moment, but we’re excited to expose it to the public for faceted browsing, and let you track our progress as we go forward in improving our records and exposing content. In the spring, further work will have been completed and normalized data will be exposed to the public via our online digital archive, currently in the works.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the project team with any questions and research requests.

Don’t Forget: Meet-up Wednesday at 2pm EST

This Wednesday, September 17th, we’re hosting our third American Archive Meet-up. It’s going to be a great discussion, that you won’t want to miss! Laura Sampson will be sharing the amazing Station’s Archived Memories (SAM) project at Rocky Mountain PBS. We’ll also be providing a virtual walkthrough of the Archival Management System (AMS), which stations are using to access their records and digitized content. As always, this will be an open discussion for sharing everyone’s questions, challenges, and solutions.

If you’re interested in joining the meeting, please fill out this RSVP form. We’re using this GoToMeeting link. Use your microphone and speakers or call in using your telephone.

United States: +1 (872) 240-3412
Access Code: 928-756-309
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting
Meeting ID: 928-756-309