WGAL, Hearst’s NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Pa., is partnering with nearby Millersville University to preserve and digitize 30 years of the station’s news footage from 1949 through 1979. “When I first saw a portion of the archive in WGAL’s basement, I knew they had an unmatched treasure of historically significant material,” said Dr. Daniel Wubah, Millersville University’s president.
WGAL, Hearst’s NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Pa., is partnering with nearby Millersville University to preserve and digitize 30 years of the station’s news footage from 1949 through 1979, the only footage of many local and regional events.
News coverage of the Susquehanna Valley during this 30-year period offers a unique view into events happening locally, but also at the state and national level, and provides many exciting opportunities for researchers and students.
An MU-WGAL 8 Media Preservation and Digitization Task Force was formed to plan for the necessary technical steps to preserve and digitize the WGAL archive.
WGAL’s first presidential election broadcast interview featuring broadcast pioneer Dave Brandt in downtown Lancaster.
The task force will research equipment options, identify digital storage solutions, create a staffing plan and establish a budget while identifying possible grants and other funding sources.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to work on this project and gain valuable experience and skills,” said Dr. Daniel Wubah, Millersville University’s president.
“When I first saw a portion of the archive in WGAL’s basement, I knew they had an unmatched treasure of historically significant material.”
WGAL’s first presidential election broadcast campaign rally featuring Sen. Richard Nixon in downtown York, Pa., in 1952
“As we celebrate our 70th anniversary in 2019, we couldn’t be more delighted to forge this partnership with Millersville University to help preserve this material for generations to come.”
Millersville plans to create an interdisciplinary project team of student interns to work on the preservation and digitization of the archive.
Hurricane Agnes, 1972
Students will help with everything from inventory to developing a scanning process and preparing the film for the in-house digitization process.
Upon completion of the project, the entire archive will be available for educational use.
NOTE: When I was a writer/producer at WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans, also owned by Hearst, the station stored years of news footage in its basement at its location in the French Quarter, site of the Brulatour Courtyard, the most famous and photographed courtyard in the city.
The footage was on film and other older formats in metal canisters. A film projector was set up so that people could see what was on the film.
I was fascinated by the old footage, some with sound and some not, and would often look at the old footage to get a glimpse of what was there. It was rumored that in order to save space, an entire year of old film from the early 1960s was thrown away by a previous owner of the station.
Employees at the time were said to have dumpster dived and retrieved some of the footage, including the Beatles playing at an outdoor concert there.
Most TV stations have years of old footage stored somewhere. It’s an expensive undertaking to find, catalog and restore all that historical footage into something that can be viewed.
But as the Millersville University president said, it’s “an unmatched treasure of historically significant material.”
It seems to me that, like WGAL, a partner could be found by other TV stations to, as WGAL’s general manager said, “help preserve this material for generations to come.”