The following is a guest post by Producer/Writer Elizabeth Deane.
Every Picture Tells a Story had its premiere in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in February, 2014, at the launch of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB).
Sound and images from six decades of public media filled that stately space, giving the audience a six-minute tip-of-the-iceberg glimpse at some of the treasures that will be part of the AAPB collection.
We’d made the film drawing mostly on media that had already been digitized by the AAPB — the first wave of stories that I had come to think of as locked away, imprisoned on ¾” videotape, VHS and Betacam tapes, ¼” audio tape, DVCPRO and more —the dreaded “obsolete formats” that can be such a barrier to access.
Few stations maintain playback machines for them any more, and the few in existence can be tricky to maintain and possibly risky to use; if they’re not working properly they can damage the footage, sometimes irrevocably.
Worse, as Every Picture points out, old videotapes can deteriorate, and the images are lost forever.
I found it heartening to know that even as the launch ceremony unfolded on that wintery day in Washington, trucks containing thousands of video and audio tapes from public stations all over the country were rolling towards Atlanta, where Crawford Media Services would create multiple digital versions of each tape — television and radio shows, raw footage, even outtakes and experiments — in science, natural history, drama, children’s programs, arts, education, history, local lore, news, and more — the entire broad and inspiring realm of public media programming.
Master copies will be kept safe for future generations at the Library of Congress, with access copies going to WGBH to be added to the growing AAPB database, and made available on a forthcoming website, when rights permit, to a national audience – researchers and scholars, filmmakers, educators, students, and kids of all ages. In addition, all of the digitized materials will be made available to researchers who visit WGBH and the Library’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers.
The film is a celebration of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at its moment of birth, just beginning to tap into its vast collection. “As of this posting close to a year later, all of it has been digitized,” says AAPB Project Manager Casey Davis. “But much of it came with only a brief description. Now we have the pleasure of watching and listening, so we can improve our records and make this remarkable collection more discoverable for all.”
Watch for the new AAPB website, set to launch with the first batch of records in April 2015, with video and audio to follow in October.