Federal grant awarded to preserve and provide access to local public broadcasts

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Some 4,000 hours of programming produced by public radio and television stations between 1941 and 1999 will be digitized and made available to the public, thanks to a federal grant for the Brown Media Archives at the University of Georgia Libraries. The programming was originally submitted for consideration for Peabody Awards.

The BMA and the WGBH Educational Foundation will partner with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting to administer the $216,280 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to preserve and provide access to the programs, all of which were submitted to the George Foster Peabody Awards. By adding the programs to the AAPB, this project will ensure that preservation copies are maintained at the Library of Congress for posterity and will expand access via the AAPB's public website and on-site research locations.  Current access to this collection of materials is only available onsite at BMA.

“Each program was submitted to the Peabody Awards by its creators as an exemplar of their finest work. These materials were made for the benefit of the American public, but the American public has not had access to them,” said Ruta Abolins, BMA director. “This project rectifies that situation. By preserving and providing access to these programs, we ensure that the original investment of public money in the creation of these programs pays off by extending the value of the work.”

In addition to the Special Collections Libraries, AAPB staff will work with the Peabody Media Center to curate two online exhibits focused on topics or events of historical significance that showcase the Peabody Awards Collection alongside local and national news, public affairs, and cultural programming contributed by other AAPB participating organizations. The Peabody Media Center will also present a series of public screenings of Peabody Awards Collection programs digitized through this project.

“This programming is unique, not only for its rarity, but because it derives from what local and public programming producers deemed their ‘best’ work,” said Jeffrey P.  Jones, Peabody Awards executive director. “While the Peabody Award itself is well-known, the wealth of these programs considered for the award has largely been forgotten. Such materials hold the potential to reshape our understanding of television history and American culture. Most scholarship on broadcast history has focused on network programming, which is better known and easier to access.”

This collection contains programs created by over 230 different radio and television stations in forty-six states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. One hundred seventy three of the included programs are Peabody winners.

“As a collection, this group of titles presents an unparalleled archive of public broadcasting diversity and excellence, not accessible elsewhere. By expanding public access to this collection, we will broaden understanding of our collective past. The collection also will be an important source for the study of public media,” said Mary Miller, Peabody Awards archivist.

The breadth and depth of the materials selected for preservation under this project will create opportunities to explore diverse topics and also allow researchers to deeply examine given topics from a variety of perspectives. Even the oldest programs contain content of current relevance; even the regionally-focused productions have national value. For example, Connecticut Public Radio's "One on One" series (a 1986 winner) sought "to make science understandable to everyone, including science haters."

“Today we see widespread conflict over interpretations of scientific data and questioning of fact; broadening an appreciation for science still matters,” Miller said, citing other examples of continuing relevance.  “AAPB and the Peabody Awards Collection allow scholars to explore regional approaches to issues of national concern and to compare yesterday's coverage to today's headlines. Among the titles chosen for inclusion in this project are over 100 programs that look at issues ofpolicing, crime, and police-community relations.”

The BMA is housed at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries, the focus of the Libraries efforts to engage UGA students, including creation of the Special Collections Teaching Fellows. During the 2017-2018 academic year, seven of the Fellows will use materials from the Peabody Awards Collection, and one Fellow's class is based entirely on Peabody materials. Many other UGA faculty members use archival materials for their courses, but incorporation of non-digitized titles has proved problematic for student research projects because of the time required to digitize the media. Having these programs digitized will greatly improve their chances of being used for student research and classroom instruction at UGA.

The Brown Media Archives was established in 1995 at the University of Georgia with the Peabody Awards Collection as the foundation of its holdings. The BMA has grown to include regional newsfilm, home movies, interviews, and folk music, among other audio and moving image genres. With the evolution of media, the Peabody Awards have also evolved, adding cable content, international programming, web content, and streaming programming. In addition to the recorded media itself, most submissions include documentation such as press releases, clippings, scripts, audience feedback, and ephemera.

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 the Library of Congress and WGBH, 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 Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a leader in educational multimedia, including PBS LearningMedia™, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards…even two 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.