A five-year effort by the University of Virginia Library to digitally preserve what is believed to be the only surviving TV news archive of original film clips from Virginia’s civil rights era led to today’s online launch of a curated collection of historic news footage and anchor scripts from Roanoke’s WSLS-TV.
The audiovisual archive, which includes 20 years of WSLS news stories broadcast from 1951 to 1971, is expected to become an invaluable resource for historical researchers, documentary filmmakers and educators, who are now able to access the diverse collection. According to a Library of Congress estimate, less than 10 percent of local news film from this time period survives.
“This was a significant collaborative effort,” University Librarian and Dean of Libraries Karin Wittenborg said. “It’s a privilege to preserve and make available this important part of history. I’m grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for their generous support, and to everyone who had a role in getting this project under way.”
The WSLS news film collection is available to the public through the library’s online catalog, Virgo. Each news story is searchable by both keywords and controlled subject terms. The collection also can be searched by the dates of the news stories.
The first 3,600 news clips of the WSLS-TV News Film Collection are online already at the collection’s Virgo homepage. The rest of the estimated 13,000 clips and 18,000 pages of anchor scripts are expected to be uploaded through the remainder of the year.
An online exhibit page offers another entry point with a smaller selection of news clips and scripts related to the desegregation of public schools, the Cold War, “Scenes of Mid-20th Century America” and other topics. The WSLS videos are viewable from Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers on Macintosh or Windows PCs, with support scheduled for Internet Explorer and iPad viewing before the end of the month.
Learn More About the Project
Direct to WSLS-TV News Collection