Every Picture Tells a Story

The following is a guest post by Producer/Writer Elizabeth Deane.

Every Picture Tells a Story had its premiere in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in February, 2014, at the launch of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB).

Sound and images from six decades of public media filled that stately space, giving the audience a six-minute tip-of-the-iceberg glimpse at some of the treasures that will be part of the AAPB collection.

We’d made the film drawing mostly on media that had already been digitized by the AAPB — the first wave of stories that I had come to think of as locked away, imprisoned on ¾” videotape, VHS and Betacam tapes, ¼” audio tape, DVCPRO and more —the dreaded “obsolete formats” that can be such a barrier to access.

Few stations maintain playback machines for them any more, and the few in existence can be tricky to maintain and possibly risky to use; if they’re not working properly they can damage the footage, sometimes irrevocably.

Worse, as Every Picture points out, old videotapes can deteriorate, and the images are lost forever.

I found it heartening to know that even as the launch ceremony unfolded on that wintery day in Washington, trucks containing thousands of video and audio tapes from public stations all over the country were rolling towards Atlanta, where Crawford Media Services would create multiple digital versions of each tape — television and radio shows, raw footage, even outtakes and experiments — in science, natural history, drama, children’s programs, arts, education, history, local lore, news, and more — the entire broad and inspiring realm of public media programming.

Master copies will be kept safe for future generations at the Library of Congress, with access copies going to WGBH to be added to the growing AAPB database, and made available on a forthcoming website, when rights permit, to a national audience – researchers and scholars, filmmakers, educators, students, and kids of all ages. In addition, all of the digitized materials will be made available to researchers who visit WGBH and the Library’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers.

The film is a celebration of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at its moment of birth, just beginning to tap into its vast collection. “As of this posting close to a year later, all of it has been digitized,” says AAPB Project Manager Casey Davis. “But much of it came with only a brief description. Now we have the pleasure of watching and listening, so we can improve our records and make this remarkable collection more discoverable for all.”

Watch for the new AAPB website, set to launch with the first batch of records in April 2015, with video and audio to follow in October.

Elizabeth Deane
Producer/Writer

New project for the new year: AAPB awarded a grant from CLIR

WGBH, in collaboration with the Library of Congress, has been awarded a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to lead the National Educational Television (NET) Collection Catalog Project, the first project to build upon the American Archive of Public Broadcasting initiative. This project will involve the creation of a national catalog of records documenting the existence and robust description of titles distributed by NET, public media’s first national network and its earliest and among its most at-risk content.

The NET Collection includes 8,000–10,000 programs produced 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.

The NET Collection is an invaluable record of non-commercial TV programming on public affairs, social issues, arts, culture, the humanities, science and education. NET programs, most of which were created by 30 public television stations across the US, often covered topics of international relevance. During this time period, public affairs documentaries and discussions explored the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, poverty, student activism and issues such as radicalism, privacy, the environment, the elderly and welfare. The NET Collection includes reporting on the Vietnam War, interviews with American and Vietnamese leaders, public hearings and a controversial report from North Vietnam. Arts and cultural programming includes interviews with artists, poets, writers, filmmakers, actors and dancers. Science Reporter and other series cover issues such as the latest in medical advances, space exploration and the progressive steps that led to the 1969 moon launch. Educational programming includes materials for classroom use, innovative children’s programming and adult education programs. The catalog will help to prioritize titles for preservation and will make this hidden collection known to scholars, researchers, and the public.

Few NET titles are known to scholars because they are in unprocessed collections. WGBH, WNET, Indiana University and the Library of Congress hold the largest collections of NET materials, while copies are known to exist at some of the original producing stations. Currently, programs are scattered, descriptions are limited and in obscure sources, and there is no publicly accessible catalog of titles.

With the NET Collection inventoried and made accessible, television studies scholars can embark on in- depth studies of NET, access its innovative series, compare commercial and noncommercial television, and examine programs that deal with bias in newscasts, effects of television on politics, effects on children, and federal involvement in public broadcasting, with perspectives from FCC and NAB officials, network executives, critics and scholars.

A huge chunk of the project will be accomplished thanks to CLIR’s funding; however, the project team envisions more work that could be undertaken to enhance the NET collection catalog. This includes the incorporation of Indiana University’s collection of titles into the catalog and expanding the scope of description and access activities; the project team will be seeking additional funds for this work. The AAPB team will keep stations and others updated as we move forward with the project. We’re looking forward to being in touch with all NET-era stations in the next several months!

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.

PBCore Webinar Recording

On October 23, 2014, the AMIA PBCore Advisory Subcommittee’s Education Team offered a webinar titled “PBCore: A How-to and Why-to Webinar.” The presenters offered contextual background; explained the benefits and reasons why PBCore is perfectly suited for managing audiovisual collections; offered step-by-step guidance on inventorying av assets and getting started with PBCore; and described the use of PBCore in different settings, such as asset management, digital preservation, archival description, and use with other schemas such as PREMIS and METS.

The PBCore Advisory Subcommittee is encouraged by the recent invigoration among archivists, librarians, and others managing media collections who are beginning to deal with their deteriorating av collections, as well as the digital video and audio collections, and we are confident that PBCore has a place in these efforts. PBCore is uniquely suited to provide a standard way to record and manage metadata for video and audio.

We look forward to providing more opportunities like this webinar in the future, as well as improving the schema over the next few months, clarifying and improving documentation, creating our new website, and generating new PBCore resources.

Many thanks to all of those who attended the webinar, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the presenters whose email addresses I have listed below:

Casey E. Davis, WGBH | casey_davis [at] wgbh [dot] org
Maureen McCormick Harlow, PBS | mmharlow [at] pbs [dot] org
Sadie Roosa, WGBH | sadie_roosa [at] wgbh [dot] org
Morgan Oscar Morel, George Blood Audio Video Film | moran.morel [at] georgeblood [dot] com

Enjoy the recording and please feel free to share it among your colleagues and networks!
(The chat text is best readable when the video is viewed in full-screen.)

PBCore: A How-to and Why-to Webinar | Recording from 10/23/14 from American Archive on Vimeo.

Report of the AAPB Rights Meeting

Last month, staff from the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) and Office of the General Counsel (OGC) met in Boston with WGBH Media Library and Archives staff and counsel from WGBH Business and Legal Affairs, as well as Representatives from the Cyberlaw Clinic and Fellows community at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society for a two-day brainstorming session to strategize regarding rights clearance for the American Archive for Public Broadcasting (AAPB). The AAPB Project Team anticipates that the outcomes of the meeting can serve as a model of how digital audiovisual archival rights can be managed.

Planning is at a very early stage, and will evolve based upon both technological and legal constraints.  The early sketch is that AAPB would employ several interlocking layers of rights clearance: obtaining permission from originating stations and rights holders; identifying public domain materials; and using copyright law exemptions including fair use, the library and archive exemptions, and existing provisions unique to public television and to the Library.

The preliminary access model is that there would be three basic levels of access to the American Archive.  First would be the open web, which would include public domain materials and materials for which the Archive (through WGBH and the Library) has obtained full permission.  Some materials at this level would be downloadable; most would be streamed.  The metadata for the entire AAPB would be in this level.

The second level would be an online virtual reading room, restricted to educational and scholarly uses.  Users would be required to register on the AAPB website, and would be presented with terms and conditions, including the use restriction and the requirement that the user comply with copyright and other legal restrictions.  This level would include materials that are permissioned for this reduced access.  It would also include materials that the legal team has determined may prudently be presented for educational and scholarly purposes under fair use and other legal doctrines.  For example, many historic news broadcasts may fall into this category. Materials on this level would be streaming only.

A third level would be materials that would be available only on Library and WGBH premises.  This is the most restricted level, and materials would likely migrate to less restricted levels as they are analyzed and as permissions are obtained.

The AAPB Project Team is excited to begin implementing this model through rights clearances and developing the technological infrastructure over the next several months. We will continue to provide updates as the work moves forward.

Meet Sadie Roosa, our new American Archive team member

sadie_roosaHi! I’m Sadie Roosa, and I’m very excited to join the American Archive team here at WGBH. I’ve already met many of you before, through emails and phone calls, when I was helping to wrap up the Content Inventory Project. In the meantime, I worked on several other WGBH projects, and got to manage the final stages of the Boston TV News Digital Library website (which you should all totally go check out. It’s awesome!). Now, I’m eager as ever to start back in on this grand endeavor.

I will be working on many different parts of the project, supporting Project Manager Casey Davis,  but I will be mainly focused on metadata and cataloging. I’m thrilled with this assignment because it means I get to watch and listen to all of the great content that’s being digitized. Just taking a few cursory strolls through the AMS, I’ve already come across so many interesting things that I can’t even pick a favorite.

As I will likely be working with many of the station contacts, I thought it’d be a good idea to tell you a bit more about myself. I graduated with my MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, and before that got my BA in Literary Studies at Simon’s Rock, a very small college in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Most of my free time is spent cooking, reading, watching TV (I am an AV archivist, whatcha gonna do?), and walking around Boston. I also love to bake, and apparently I’m pretty good at it. One time when I brought scones in for the office, I had a coworker run up to me and yell, “Did you makes these?! What are you even doing working here?! You should be selling these in a bakery.” I chose to take that as a compliment.

If you ever plan on visiting us here in Boston, I’d love to meet you. Just give me a day’s notice, and I’ll whip up your favorite cookies, cake, scones, pie, etc. You can also contact me with questions whenever, at 617.300.2668 or sadie_roosa [at] wgbh [dot] org. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet discovered how to send muffins as email attachments.

Join the American Archive Meet-Ups

We’re organizing a meet-up among the American Archive team and participating stations and organizations to talk about issues related to archiving, digital file management, storage and preservation best practices, metadata, working with volunteers and interns, and other archival-related topics that participants want to discuss. The meet-ups will be very informal and will provide an opportunity for stations to gather feedback from the American Archive team and learn about how others are preserving their stations’ archives.

We’ll be organizing the meet-ups as small groups on a rotating schedule so that we can maintain an ease of conversation during the phone calls. If you’re interested in joining a group, please fill out the form and we’ll get in touch with you to let you know who is in your group and when we’ll be meeting.