OPB Completes American Archive Project
Posted May 7, 2010
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) has completed a prototype archive that establishes a foundation for archiving public broadcasting material in the future. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) commissioned the project in January of 2009 to explore the scope of historic video and audio sitting on shelves throughout the public broadcasting system, and to determine what it would take to preserve and archive this historic content.
Twenty-five public television and radio stations took part in the project. In the first phase, the stations conducted a station-wide inventory for content related to two topics: the U.S. Civil Rights movement and World War II era oral histories stations created in conjunction with the 2007 Ken Burns series, The War. Stations inventoried more than 5,200 items totaling over 7,200 hours of content on formats that ranged from 16mm film to 1/4-inch audio to HDCam.
Twenty-two stations continued on to the second phase of the project, restoring, digitizing and cataloging sound and video clips. In this phase, stations archived more than 5,700 items totaling more than 2,300 hours of broadcast material.
Stations found treasures: Author James Baldwin’s 1963 speech “100 Years of Freedom;” an interview with the daughter of W.E.B. DuBois; a young school boy reading his response to the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.; a 1981 documentary featuring white supremacists arguing their case for racial re-segregation; and a 1963 series featuring interviews with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Stations also reported losses: An entire decade of the program “Louisiana Alive;” a 1959 speech by Louisiana Gov. Earl Long protesting the purging of black voters from state registration polls; countless material simply thrown away or lost to deterioration.
“The American Archive Pilot Program saved hours upon hours of extraordinary content,” says OPB’s project manager, Catherine Stimac. “It was Oregon Public Broadcasting’s great pleasure to collaborate with CPB, partner organizations and stations from around the country on this initiative. The American Archive comes at a crucial moment, one in which we realize that public broadcasting’s significant contributions to the chronicle of our country’s history are at risk of being lost.”
OPB ingested more than 3,700 clips into the Archive Prototype. The process of creating the prototype answered several valuable questions for CPB. How much material do stations have and on what formats? What must be done to restore and digitize that content and how much will it cost? What is the best uniform system for coding the metadata?
The prototype will be presented to member stations this May 2010 in Austin at the PBS Annual Showcase. The prototype currently serves for demonstration purposes only. Rights clearances prevent making the material available to the public at this time.
This project gave CPB a solid understanding of the processes required to implement a system-wide archive.
“OPB has set the table for the American Archive: our inventory, preservation, and digital processes will be anchored in their exceptional work,” says CPB’s Matt White, Executive Director of the American Archive. “An enormous amount of information was gathered during the pilot, and OPB’s smart analysis and detailed documentation allows us to move forward with clarity and confidence.”