Public Release: 

UGA's Peabody Archives receives a 'Save America's Treasures' grant to preserve television programs

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia's Walter J. Brown Media Archive and Peabody Awards Collection has received a "Save America's Treasures" federal grant from the National Park Service for $300,000 to reformat and digitize television programs on videotape in the prestigious Peabody Awards collection.

The programs to be preserved are unique television productions submitted for Peabody Award consideration by local television stations between 1973 and 1990. "Historically, local television stations have rarely saved their programming over the long term because of storage issues and the cost of tape," said Ruta Abolins, director of the archives. "With this project we will transfer aging and obsolete videotapes to a high-resolution digital file, two low-resolution streaming files and a new master videotape. This not only preserves irreplaceable programs, but vastly improves access to the shows' contents."

UGA's project will digitize more than 5,000 tapes over an 18-month period using the System for Automated Migration of Media Archives (SAMMA), a robotic system which can clean, transfer and digitize tapes 24 hours a day. This is one of 60 projects in 24 states to receive part of the $14.5 million in federal funds. It is one of six moving image collections to receive funding in this year's grant.

"The diversity of this collection, as well as its reflection of American history and culture, makes the Peabody Archives a valuable source for scholars, researchers and students," said William Gray Potter, university librarian. "Our financial resources cannot begin to cover an expenditure of this magnitude and we are grateful to these federal agencies for providing us help to preserve programs of national significance."

Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards at the UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, made another point. "Our country is in jeopardy of losing its audiovisual heritage, and this grant does a great deal for preserving an American treasure," said Newcomb. "The valuable historical content available in television is often unnoticed. This prejudice is perhaps the most harmful thing to television preservation today. As more television stations and media companies go digital and old format playback equipment changes, analog videotape is quickly being dismissed as 'useless' or dumped in landfills to clear storage space. Our challenge and our mission are to preserve the unique content and show what gems still exist from our nation's rapidly disappearing broadcast history."

Save America's Treasures is a funding partnership of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), the National Park Service (NPS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The Peabody Awards Collection, the cornerstone of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives at the UGA Libraries holds more than 40,000 titles from news, documentary, entertainment, educational, children's and public service programming.


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