Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Audiovisual Preservation

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month of November to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our fifth and last post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week I’m highlighting some recent actions we’ve taken to preserving our audiovisual collections, which includes our collections related to public broadcasting.

For our current initiatives, we’ve been focused on audiovisual preservation. Last spring, we hired Rosie Rowe, our Audiovisual Preservation Specialist. This is a new position, charged with providing guidance on our audiovisual preservation and access workflow.

AV digitization workstation 1

Video Preservation Rack (Courtesy of Brad Kuennen).

AV digitization workstation 2

Audio Preservation Rack (in process) (Courtesy of Brad Kuennen).

Through the acquisition of equipment from other campus units and purchasing other needed tools, Rosie has constructed a Video Preservation Rack. She has developed a digitization workflow and is currently training students to assist with some of that work. She is in the process of constructing an audio preservation workstation. Through her initiative and in collaboration with other department staff, she has developed an audiovisual access policy based on principles of best practices for preservation, identified priority collections for digitization, and improved intellectual control over collections. This work will greatly benefit our audiovisual collections so that they can be better preserved, managed, and shared.

This post was co-written by Rachel Seale, outreach archivist, & Brad Kuennen, university archivist.

 


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Iowa’s First Educational Television Station

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our fourth post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week we’re focusing on Iowa’s first educational television station, WOI-TV, to showcase the variety of public broadcasting programs we are preserving.

This photograph shows Exhibit Hall at Iowa State University in 1953. The signal tower is in the background. A sign on the door says: WOI-TV Studios. A women is walking to the door. Snow is on the ground.

Exhibit Hall. The signal tower is in the background. A sign on the door says: WOI-TV Studios. (University Photographs, RS 4/8/I).

WOI-TV first aired in central Iowa in February 1950. The station was owned and operated by Iowa State University (at the time known as Iowa State College) until it was sold to a private company in 1994. WOI-TV has the distinction of being the first commercial television station owned by a public institution of higher learning and it is thought to be the first television station in the nation dedicated to educational programming.

During the 1950s, WOI-TV developed a diverse schedule of local programming. It was one of the first television stations to broadcast college-level courses. It also developed children’s programming, including The Magic Window, which would become one of the longest-running programs in the history of television. WOI-TV provided viewers an opportunity to explore the state’s history through a series called Landmarks in Iowa History starring Herb Hake, a professor from the University of Northern Iowa. It brought the citizens of Iowa into some of Iowa’s state institutions, such as the prison system and the mental health facilities, in the award-winning series In Our Care. Viewers could learn from Iowa State faculty as they presented programs on entry-level German in Eins Zwei Drei or beginning chemistry in Chemistry 101. The station also broadcast programs on current affairs and, this being Iowa, on agriculture.

Black-and-white photograph of woman with ahir in updo, wearing dark dress, holding a puppet on her left hand (Betty Lou [McVay] Varnum) on the set of The Magic Window on WOI-TV in 1957. Betty Lou is standing next to a desk and there is another puppet on the desk.

Betty Lou (McVay) Varnum on the set of The Magic Window on WOI-TV, 1957 (University Photographs, RS 5/6).

One of the more successful early programs resulted from a $260,000 grant from the Ford Foundation’s Fund for Adult Education. The resulting project was a series of public affairs programs called The Whole Town’s Talking. The programs, directed by Charles Guggenheim, aired in 1952 and illustrated some of the challenges rural Iowa communities were facing, including school consolidation, juvenile delinquency, and paying for community infrastructure projects. The programs centered around town hall meetings featuring members of the community discussing possible solutions to their community’s needs.

WOI-TV also produced a number of programs sponsored by National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS. These programs included some mentioned previously aimed at children and college-level instruction (The Magic Window, Eins Zwei Drei), but also other programs focused on international affairs, history, and literature. The Long Voyage brought classical literature to the small screen, Heritage of the Land discussed U.S. land usage and the environment, and Of Men and Ideas dealt with topics of a more abstract nature such as imagination, ethics, and governance.

By 1960, WOI-TV became the ABC affiliate of central Iowa and educational programming became less of a priority. Fortunately, many of these earlier programs survived on 16mm film and were eventually transferred to the ISU Library Special Collections and University Archives. Some of these programs have been digitized and made available online through the department’s YouTube channel. It’s interesting to look back and see how television has changed since those early shows were produced.

 


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Educational Television

NET_3_FX

National Educational Television presents The Magic Window program, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary! We’re posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting. This is our third post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and this week we are highlighting the longest-running, locally produced children’s educational television program ever made in America: The Magic Window.

 

NET_4_FX

Intro title of The Magic Window, 1954 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

“The Magic Window, which for forty years was hosted by a woman named Betty Lou Varnum. In every episode, Betty Lou would introduce a craft-making segment by announcing the materials needed. These were always kid-safe items that could be found around the house. But the kids had to find everything fast, really fast or Betty Lou would go on without them.” –The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham, 2010)

Magic Window 2 FX

Frame still from The Magic Window, 1956 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]

Betty Lou Varnum was a TV personality at WOI-TV in central Iowa. She began her career in 1954 as host of a program for children, “The Magic Window.” She also hosted other WOI-TV programs “Dimension 5,” “Status 6,” and “Stringer’s Newscast.” Varnum was an announcer for a number of televised VEISHEA parades at Iowa State University and Iowa State Fair parades in Des Moines, Iowa. She retired from WOI-TV in 1994.

Betty Lou FX

Betty Lou Varnum, host of The Magic Window, 1955 [ISU Special Collections and University Archives, WOI-TV]


Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act #PubMedia50 @amarchivepub: Radio Broadcasting

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) have joined the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s month-long celebration of the Public Broadcasting Act’s 50th Anniversary by posting content throughout the month to celebrate the history and preservation of public broadcasting! This is our second post commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and this week I’m highlighting some finding aids for our collections related to noted local and regional radio broadcasters.

John D. “Jack Shelley Papers, RS 13/13/55

Jack Shelley, 1965 (University Photographs RS 13/13/55).

John D. “Jack” Shelley was born in Boone, Iowa on March 8, 1912. He graduated from Boone High School (1929), and earned a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia (1935). After a short stay with the Iowa Herald in Clinton, Iowa, Shelley went to work for WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa. He was assistant news director for five years, then became news director for both radio and television until he left in 1965. Shelley was a war correspondent in Europe and the Pacific covering World War II. He interviewed hundreds of combat soldiers in both theaters. Shelley recorded one of the first broadcast interviews with crew members of the airplanes that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. He was aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay to cover the Allies’ acceptance of the unconditional Japanese surrender, and was one of twenty reporters chosen to cover the atomic bomb tests at Yucca Flats, Nevada (1953). The tape recorder Shelley took along to record the event was one of the few to withstand the shock of the blast.

In 1965, Mr. Shelley joined Iowa State University as an Associate Professor of Journalism, then served as Professor until his retirement in 1982. Iowa State University honored him for his academic contributions with an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Citation from the Iowa State University Alumni Association.

Jack Shelley helped found the Iowa Broadcast News Association, an organization that honored him by establishing the Jack Shelley Award in 1971. He is a past president of the International Radio-Television News Directors Association, which he helped found, and of the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He was president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council (1981) and a member of a committee appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court to advise it on the use of cameras and tape recorders in court trials. He received the Broadcaster of the Year Award (1980) from the Iowa Broadcasters Association.

Herbert Plambeck Papers, RS 21/7/42

Herb Plambeck, (University Photographs RS 21/7/42).

Herbert Plambeck was born February 29, 1908 and raised in Scott County, Iowa. He graduated from Iowa State University with a major in agriculture (1936). He began his professional career as a USDA College (University) County Extension employee, but in 1935 he became Farm Editor for the Davenport (Iowa) Times Democrat. In 1936, he was named Farm Director for WHO-Radio in Des Moines, a position he held until 1970.  Plambeck was then appointed assistant to the U.S. Secretary for Agriculture where he focused on public affairs. Plambeck was a member of the U.S. Agricultural Delegation to the Soviet Union in 1955, where he made the first farm broadcast report from Russia. He repeated this feat when he delivered the first farm broadcast from China in 1976.

John C. Baker Papers, MS 546

John C. Baker was born in 1909 in Brazil, Indiana. He received his B.S. (1930) in agriculture from Purdue University. He began farm broadcasting at the Purdue radio station WBAA from 1930-1931. He also worked stints in farm broadcasting in Massachusetts, Chicago, and in the radio service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he participated in the National Farm and Home Hour on NBC and The American Farmer on ABC. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked as an information officer in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Census Bureau. He published Farm Broadcasting: The First Sixty Years with Iowa State University Press in 1981.