American Archive of Public Broadcasting to Preserve Fifty Years of Sesame Street for Posterity

WGBH Educational Foundation and the Library of Congress will preserve and make accessible to the public historic and contemporary episodes of Sesame Street.

Photo credit: Sesame Workshop

BOSTON (February 14, 2019)As Sesame Street begins to mark its 50th anniversary, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation, has announced that Sesame Workshop has donated a collection of digitized episodes from the past 50 years of Sesame Street, to be preserved for posterity. Over the next year, nearly 4,500 episodes from the first 49 seasons of the iconic children’s television program will be incorporated into the AAPB’s extensive archive of public media from across the United States. The Sesame Street collection will be available to view on-site at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and by appointment at WGBH in Boston.

Sesame Street changed the landscape of children’s media at a time when television was viewed as a ‘vast wasteland’ and transformed a medium that strongly appealed to children into a source for knowledge and social development for our youngest citizens,” said Sesame Street co-founder and AAPB Executive Advisory Council Member Lloyd Morrisett, Jr. “I am proud that we are entrusting the American Archive of Public Broadcasting with the task of preserving Sesame Street’s stories and characters for future generations.”

The Sesame Street preservation project comes on the heels of Sesame Workshop’s announcement last week detailing plans to celebrate Sesame Street’s 50th year of broadcast. Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit education organization behind Sesame Street, which has been teaching and inspiring children since its first episode aired on November 10, 1969. Sesame Street’s groundbreaking research-based methods, dedication to entertaining educational content and outreach to families in underserved communities established a legacy for educational television and for public media as a whole.

Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Highlight Reel

Among the episodes preserved in the AAPB’s Sesame Street collection are indelible scenes like the touching “Farewell, Mr. Hooper,” in which Big Bird, the program’s guileless surrogate for curious children, learns about death and how to cope;  Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie, You’re the One,” which made it to the 16th spot on the Billboard top singles chart in 1970; Grover’s frantic back and forth in “Near/Far,” Cookie Monster’s turn as “Alistair Cookie,” the cookie and classics-obsessed host of Monsterpiece Theater; and Kermit the Frog’s hopeful tune, “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” which stressed self-acceptance.

“As a historian and academic, I can’t stress enough the importance of preserving groundbreaking media like Sesame Street, which was the first TV show to address big issues like poverty, family and the environment in a way that children could understand,” said Kathryn Ostrofsky, Ph.D. and author of the forthcoming book Sounding It Out: How Sesame Street Crafted American Culture. “Early episodes of Sesame Street provide a window into the pressing issues of the times, as well as changing views about education. The American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s Sesame Street collection is a critical resource for studying and understanding so many facets of these societal changes.”

The mission of the AAPB is to digitize, preserve and make accessible historic public media content from across the country, dating back to the early 1940s. Given its age, much of the original audio and video tape is fragile and deteriorating. The AAPB is in a race against time to ensure that future generations, researchers and the public will be able to access these programs for years to come.

“We’re honored that Sesame Workshop has entrusted the preservation of their decades of work to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “To this day, Sesame Street is a key part of our national educational, television and public broadcasting landscape. I hope that everyone whose lives were touched by Sesame Street will visit the Library and WGBH to experience this historic collection.”

Photo credit: Sesame Workshop

Now in its fifth year of service, the AAPB has preserved for posterity over 90,000 digitized and born-digital audio and video materials. Among the collections preserved are more than 8,000 episodes of the PBS NewsHour Collection, dating back to 1975; more than 1,300 programs and documentaries from National Educational Television, the predecessor to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); full “gavel-to-gavel” coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings; raw, unedited interviews from the landmark documentary Eyes on the Prize; raw, unedited interviews with eyewitnesses and historians recorded for American Experience documentaries including Stonewall Uprising, The Murder of Emmett Till, Freedom Riders, 1964, The Abolitionists and many others. The AAPB also works with scholars to publish curated exhibits and essays that provide historical and cultural context to the Archive’s content.


About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 50,000 hours of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at WGBH and the Library of Congress, and more than 35,000 programs are available online at americanarchive.org. 

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including MasterpieceAntiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, ArthurPinkalicious & Peterrific, and more than a dozen other primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH’s television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH TV productions focusing on the region’s diverse community include Greater BostonBasic Black and High School Quiz Show. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio (among them, PRI’s The World®), a leader in educational multimedia (including PBS LearningMedia™, providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content), and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at wgbh.org.

About The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

Vote for AAPB’s Breakout Session Proposal for the PBS Annual Meeting!

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‘Engage Your Community to Celebrate Your History’ – Voting closes January 11th!

Help the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) connect with more public television colleagues by voting for our PBS Annual Meeting session proposal: ‘Engage Your Community to Celebrate Your History’.

Vote for #12 at https://pbs.us18.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1ef18d7e30fe3109d60695e37&id=1015068778&e=0fc245cef2!

Many stations have piles of tapes in closets, basements, off-site storage, or hard drives under desks, that represent our local and national cultural heritage. The AAPB has proposed a session to help stations learn about easy steps toward preserving and making their collection available. Through collaborative grants with stations both large and small, the AAPB has preserved nearly 100,000 programs and original materials contributed by 125 TV and radio stations.

Joining the session would be Broadcast Journalist Judy Woodruff, Chair of our Executive Advisory Council and from the PBS NewsHour, Archivist Chris Alexander from WETA, and AAPB Stations and Producers Advisory Committee Member Kevin Crane from Nashville Public Television to discuss preservation, funding, and engaging initiatives that help preserve broadcasting’s legacy!

It’s as easy as:

  1. Click the voting link: https://pbs.us18.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1ef18d7e30fe3109d60695e37&id=1015068778&e=0fc245cef2
  2. Press ‘NEXT’ to #12
  3. Select AAPB’s Session titled ‘Engage Your Community to Celebrate Your History’
  4. Click ‘NEXT’ until you’ve submitted!

Please spread the word with your fellow pubmedia fans! Thank you.

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Ben Gogel, Research Assistant on the NewsHour Digitization Project

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Over the last several months, I’ve worked as a Research Assistant at WGBH on the PBS NewsHour Digitization Project. This project involves taking the predecessor programs for the PBS NewsHour, including The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and making them available to a wider audience through digitization, preservation, and online access. My specific responsibilities include reviewing the proxy files, or digital copies, of multiple NewsHour episodes and making sure they are presentable (no major audiovisual glitches, complete transcripts, subtitles are legible), and recording the information in an online spreadsheet. This may sound like a straightforward job, but working at WGBH taught me even straightforward jobs can have unpredictable aspects, and I learned a lot about adapting to new challenges and going outside my comfort zone.

Before working on this project, I attended a rigorous Archives Management program at Simmons University, learning about several archival processing practices, chief among them being More Product, Less Process (MPLP). The idea behind MPLP is that, in cases where large amounts of archival content needs to be preserved, the Archivist must focus on processing as many objects as possible. This approach served me well in several real-world internships, including two in different departments at WGBH. The first of these was in the Creative department during the summer of 2015, helping my co-workers not only track data but set up a Google Drive account so as to store it in a spreadsheet. I then parlayed this experience into my Simmons Archives Field Study capstone project in the WGBH Media Library and Archives (MLA). Throughout the winter of 2016, I reviewed and cataloged episodes of regional news magazines produced by the Wyoming PBS and Oregon Public Broadcasting. Between the academic training and real-world experience, I thought I could handle working on the NewsHour Digitization Project, but over time, I found out just how unprepared I was, in the best way possible.

While archives share general principles, every place and department I’ve worked at has its own unique, unpredictable challenges, and the same was true on this project as well. A typical day on the job involves watching NewsHour episodes in bits and pieces, making sure the videos were watchable and their accompanying materials (i.e. transcripts and subtitles) were present and accurate. Most of the time, review has been straightforward, and the clips themselves have occasionally been interesting looks at iconic figures from new perspectives: personal favorites include retrospectives on what would’ve been the 100th birthdays of Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, for example. But there are times where I have been thrown for a loop and needed to adapt.

For clips without transcripts and/or subtitles, I had no choice but to watch them for longer time periods, paying close attention to the audio. This need for paying close attention goes both ways, and there were times during graphic reports (like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina coverage) where I needed to take small breaks to keep from getting overwhelmed emotionally. Fortunately, my co-workers and supervisor, remembering me from my previous Archives internship, have been remarkably sympathetic and understanding, which helped alleviate this stress, among other worries. The friendly, open atmosphere also encouraged me to branch out and extend a helping hand to them, and new people at WGBH, in kind.

Throughout the summer months, the MLA had several interns join over the summer, and as a welcoming gesture, I sat down with each of them for lunch on their first days, and over the course of their time I offered practical advice whenever I could, most importantly to not rule anything out vis-à-vis future work opportunities. At the same time, I myself was a fresh addition to the audience at several MeetUps and SpeakEasys: one of each a month for promoting and socializing with people from different departments of WGBH. The MeetUps even have a whole minute set aside for the purpose of introducing yourself to strangers, a nice and well-appreciated touch. Between this mentorship and more socially conducive environment, I had a support network that helped me a great deal.

As a kid, two of the biggest things that scared me were thunderstorms and spicy foods, particularly buffalo chicken. I would always stay away from both of them at every possible opportunity, to preserve my anxiety and avoid any kind of discomfort. The last few months had their fair share of stormy heat waves and spicy hot wings, but as with archival work in general, uncomfortable situations can only be avoided for so long. In the end, I had to buck up and accept that summer storms could at least be tolerated, and it helps that my co-workers never treated it as a debilitating setback. As for the spicy foods, that I did have control over, and to set a positive example for the interns, I not only tried buffalo chicken, but also pulled pork covered in Jamaican jerk seasoning. To my surprise, neither one of those foods burned my mouth off or led to searing pain, and this growth can be directly attributed to both my at-work support group and my need/willingness to handle unforeseen archiving circumstances.

Being adaptable to unpredictable elements is the most valuable lesson I learned from this experience. On-the-nose food metaphors aside, my experience with the turbulence in both the clouds and video files forced me out of my comfort zone, but it was all in terms I could understand thanks to my years of real-world experience. In my goal of preserving and making accessible the NewsHour files, I persevered and made myself more accessible as well.

Written by Ben Gogel, https://www.linkedin.com/in/bengogel/

 

 

American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s Advisory Committees to Guide Public Media Preservation

Education Advisory Committee, Scholar Advisory Committee and Stations and Producers Advisory Committee to Guide American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s Preservation Efforts

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has announced three new advisory committees: The Education Advisory Committee (EduAC), the Scholar Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Stations and Producers Advisory Committee (SPAC). These three groups of public media advocates and experts in their fields will grow the AAPB’s reach and engagement and will provide feedback on how to improve the AAPB’s operations as relates to each group’s unique needs. This initiative is made possible with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The AAPB, a collaboration between Boston public media station WGBH and the Library of Congress, has been working to digitize and preserve more than 50,000 hours of broadcasts and previously inaccessible programs from public radio and public television’s more than 70-year legacy. A list of Committee members is available at http://americanarchive.org/about-the-american-archive/advisory-committees.

 “The AAPB is a vast resource and a unique catalogue of our nation’s history through the lens of public media and local perspectives. The feedback we receive from our new committees is crucial to making the AAPB as accessible and user-friendly as possible to key communities across the country,” said Karen Cariani, David O. Ives Executive Director of the WGBH Media Library and Archives and WGBH’s Project Director for the AAPB. “We look forward to collaborating with scholars, educators, stations and producers and expanding the reach of the AAPB.”

The SAC, comprised of scholars from universities, academic and cultural institutions and non-profits from across the U.S., will collaborate on developing ways to engage with scholars and students, discuss how the AAPB can better support research, provide feedback on the AAPB’s website usability and accessibility, advise on future collections significant for preservation and assist in outreach across their academic networks. SAC scholars represent expertise in a range of fields, including public history, media, cinema, library and information science, journalism, science and American studies. The AAPB’s audio and video content from public media stations is a rich resource for research across these topics and more. The SAC’s input will help the AAPB make the use of these resources more accessible for researchers.

A group of education professionals comprise the EduAC. This committee will help the AAPB assess how it can better grow the usage of public media materials in k-12 and community college classrooms. EduAC will advise the AAPB on how to build better and/or integrate with existing online educational tools, to engage with k-12 students and better support educators in the field, and will act as advocates for public media preservation in their networks and communities.

The SPAC will bring together members of the public media community to gather input on how the AAPB can help stations preserve public media and make their historic content more accessible. The SPAC will offer feedback on the archiving services most needed by public media stations and identify significant collections and content for preservation.

The AAPB is a national effort to preserve at-risk public media and provide a central web portal for access to the programming that public stations and producers have created over the past 70 years. To date, over 50,000 hours of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized, and the Archive aims to grow by up to 25,000 additional hours per year. The entire collection is available for research on location at WGBH and the Library, and currently more than 30,000 programs are available in the AAPB’s Online Reading Room at americanarchive.org to anyone in the United States.

– – –

About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 50,000 hours of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at WGBH and the Library of Congress, and more than 30,000 programs are available online at americanarchive.org.

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Arthur, and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a major supplier of programming for public radio and a partner with Public Radio International (PRI). As a leader in educational multimedia for the classroom, WGBH supplies content to PBS LearningMedia, a national broadband service for teachers and students. WGBH also is a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to those with hearing or visual impairments. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at www.wgbh.org.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at mellon.org.

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!

PBS Annual Meeting Presentation & Takeaways

The American Archive team from WGBH presented at the PBS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet many of our station collaborators in person and gather tremendously useful feedback from participants. Many thanks to all of those who attended the session and reception, as well as those who took the time to meet with us at other moments during the conference. Additionally, we are sincerely grateful to our co-presenters, Sandy Schonning from KQED and Laura Sampson from Rocky Mountain PBS’ Stations Archived Memories program.

Below we’ve provided our Annual Meeting slideshow, divided into three sections: 1) history and progress of the American Archive, 2) stories from stations, and 3) discussion. During the discussion section, we asked a series of questions, and in this version of the presentation you will find a summary of the answers. If your organization is participating in the American Archive, please feel free to comment on this post with your answers to these questions (or questions about these questions!).

Feel free to email any of our session presenters:

Karen Cariani, Director
WGBH Media Library & Archives
karen_cariani [at] wgbh [dot] org

Casey E. Davis, Project Manager, American Archive
WGBH Media Library & Archives
casey_davis [at] wgbh [dot] org

Laura Sampson, Rocky Mountain PBS
Stations Archived Memories 

laurasampson [at] me [dot] com

Sandy Schonning, KQED
sschonning [at] kqed [dot] org

Join us at the American Archive reception!

The American Archive team will be in San Francisco at the PBS Annual Meeting. We hope that you will join us on Tuesday, May 13th to discuss the American Archive at your station, hear about the project’s latest activities, and most importantly, to give us your feedback!

We’ll be presenting a concurrent session titled “American Archive of Public Broadcasting: Preservation through Collaboration” on Tuesday, May 13th at 3:45pm in Yerba Buena Ballroom Area 20. Presenters will include Project Director Karen Cariani, Project Manager Casey Davis, and collaborators at two American Archive participating stations — Leslie Bourgeois, Archivist at Louisiana Public Broadcasting and Sandy Schonning, Director of TV Production at KQED.

Following the session, join us for an American Archive casual reception in Foothill B (second floor) from 4:30-6:00pm. Refreshments will be served.

If you plan to attend, please let us know by contacting casey_davis [at] wgbh.org. If colleagues from your station are also attending, please take a moment to connect us with them via email. You are all welcome!

If you have any topics or questions that you would like for us to address in the concurrent session, please comment on this post or email them to Casey at the address provided above.

See you in San Francisco!