Preserving History

This past January I arrived at WGBH to start an internship cataloging digitized video and audio materials from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. As a first-year graduate student at the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science, I had limited experience with cataloging (although my mother is a cataloger, so you could say I’m genetically predisposed!). But when I heard about the available internship at WGBH, I was excited by the opportunity to both get real world cataloging experience and explore the archives of public broadcasting–since, like many librarians, I am a devoted fan of public television and radio.

After reviewing AAPB’s cataloging guidelines and completing a set of practice records, each cataloging intern at WGBH chooses from a list of public television and radio stations that have digitized materials ready for cataloging. I jumped at the chance to catalog the audio assets from WFCR. WFCR was “my” public radio station for the four years I lived in Western Massachusetts, and I listened to hours of its programming during my commutes to and from work.

In the weeks that I’ve been working on this audio collection, I’ve cataloged a wide range of radio programs and raw footage from the 1960s through the 1980s. I’ve cataloged lectures on family farming, civil rights, and the Vietnam War; poetry readings by Robert Frost and Anne Halley; and folk, jazz, and classical concerts held at the area colleges. My heart even skipped a beat when I happened upon Betty Friedan’s 1981 Commencement address at my alma mater, Smith College. But the footage that has been the most interesting to me is the collection of raw footage and news segments about what has been called the “Amherst College takeover” of 1970.

In the early morning of February 18, 1970, representatives of the African American student associations from Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Amherst Colleges and the University of Massachusetts occupied four buildings on Amherst’s campus, in protest of the treatment of African American students by the four colleges. The students vacated the buildings later that day, but their actions started a discussion that would lead to changes at all four institutions.

The Amherst College takeover was an important event in the history of the Five Colleges, yet very little information about it exists that is accessible to the general public. Now, thanks to WFCR and the AAPB, its legacy has been preserved. In the AAPB, you can find footage of press conferences, interviews with students and administrators, and even news segments detailing the events of the day, such as the clip below.

To me, this example perfectly illustrates the importance of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and of the work that we are doing as catalogers. Even as an intern, I am helping to provide access to materials that will be valuable sources for research and education in the future.

IMG_1147This post was written by Anna Newman, intern for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at WGBH.

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