March 4, 2021

Wonderful! American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) to Preserve Fifty Years of Sesame Street for Posterity

From the Library of Congress:

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.

[Our emphasis] 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.

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.”

NOTE: While the Sesame Street Collection will not be available to stream online more and more material CAN BE STREAMED online (free) via the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

A Few Examples:

Thousands of Episodes of the PBS NewsHour (Video and Transcripts)

NEW: A New Special Collection Available Online From the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB): Raw Interviews from American Experience’s ‘The Abolitionists’

NEW: American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Releases New Special Collection of News and Cultural Programming from Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA)

From 2017: American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Releases Three Exclusive Collections of Full-Length Interviews

Full Length?

Only excerpts of these interviews were included in previously released, edited programs. Now, the full-length interviews from these landmark series will be available to view online.

More AAPB Special Collections

AAPB Exhibits
Including Speaking and Protesting in America and Voices from the Southern Civil Rights Movement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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