The CBC is throwing open its vaults. At least partially.
The national broadcaster has officially been making radio since 1936 and television since 1952, and in doing so, it’s been projecting an image of our national identity and, often, performing our national identity crisis.
Over this time, the CBC has built up a vast archive of audio and visual content. It’s impossible to quantify, but at least one person has tried. In 2016, Russ McMillen, coordinator for CBC’s mass digitization project and our tour guide through the vault, travelled to every CBC outpost across Canada and counted everything, coming up with about 1.4 million “assets” in total across 1,800 collections. It amounts to 90,000 reels of film, and about 135 years worth of audio and video, if you were to listen and watch it all in a row.
Many of the formats are now obsolete or on their way out, so before the equipment to play the material goes extinct, the CBC undertook a major digitization project that started in 2010, centring around the vault at their Toronto headquarters at 250 Front Street West. That process has uncovered some amazing material, much of it unseen since its original airdate.
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