Poring through the tapes and films stored in the archives vault at WGBH is like taking a tour of Boston history as it was captured on TV news broadcasts: Fidel Castro visits Boston in 1959; Martin Luther King Jr. marches in Roxbury in 1965; Barack Obama protests outside Harvard University in 1990.
Films and tapes deteriorate over time, so WGBH officials have begun ambitiously digitizing not only former newscasts from their Channel 2, but historical news footage from other local TV stations.
The result will be the Boston TV News Digital Library, the first online repository of Boston television news from 1959 to 2000. The idea is to build a video catalog of Boston history, as captured in daily newscasts, that will be available over the Internet.
The big effort is bringing together otherwise fierce rivals. The digitization process is painstaking, and the archive will feature only a fraction of the material in the vault. Still, there will be 40 hours of Boston TV news, or about 600 reports, on some of the biggest events in the city, as captured by WGBH-TV (Channel 2), WHDH-TV (Channel 7), WCVB-TV (Channel 5), and Cambridge Community Television. The TV news library is being funded with $900,000 in grants from nonprofit groups and federal agencies such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The collections did not come directly from the stations, which had donated the old films and tapes to nonprofit groups that stored them. Cariani is working with Northeast Historic Film, which owns WCVB’s film footage from 1970 to 1979, and the Boston Public Library, which houses WHDH’s news film collection from 1960 through the mid-1970s. Cambridge Community Television is providing its news archives from 1988-1999.
See Also: OpenVault From WGBH
Already online and searchable.
The WGBH Media Library and Archives records are largely organized around the broadcast series and programs for which materials were created. Collections contain records organized around a particular topic, material type, or grant-funded project. Series aired on WGBH and/or PBS.
In 2008 The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the WGBH MLA to utilize scholarly input to design and pilot an online media archive content delivery system for research and classroom use and develop a preliminary business plan for future sustainability and growth. Much of the technical design and functionality of the new Open Vault website is based on this work.
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