Pioneering Television Series
The Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries have received a grant of $150,500 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve a collection of more than 300 educational television shows produced by The Johns Hopkins University between 1948 and 1960.
The collection includes four series: The Johns Hopkins Science Review, Tomorrow, Tomorrow's Careers, and Johns Hopkins File 7. All were recorded on kinescopes, 16 mm films that recorded the show, as it was broadcast, directly from a cathode-ray monitor.
"This landmark project will enable us to preserve films that are as extraordinary for their content as they are for documenting important milestones in television's technical development," said Winston Tabb, dean of Johns Hopkins university libraries.
Distinguished scientists featured in the films include George Gamow, a leading advocate of the big-bang theory of the universe; John Mauchly, one of the principal inventors of ENIAC, the first large-scale general-purpose electronic computer; and renowned rocket and missile engineer Wernher Von Braun. Other noteworthy guests were folk singer Mike Seeger and future actor John Astin, then a student in the Johns Hopkins class of 1952 and now a visiting faculty member at Johns Hopkins.
In the early 1950s, few universities were involved in producing television series, and only five broadcast their programs over the national networks. The Johns Hopkins Science Review was not only the first university-based television series to air on a national network, it was also the first to be broadcast overseas. The show earned the George Foster Peabody Award for the outstanding education program of the year in 1950 and 1952. Both TV Guide and TV Forecast honored the program with awards in 1950, the former citing it as the "educational program which has done more to advance television as a public service medium while still providing good entertainment."
While Science Review focused specifically on scientific subjects, the other three programs produced broadened the spectrum of topics. Johns Hopkins File 7, the inspiration of Johns Hopkins University President Milton S. Eisenhower, explored human knowledge broadly, covering topics ranging from medicine and astronomy to drama and music.
The NEH award will fund the production of digital beta master videotape and a second VHS "use" copy for all 332 programs in the collection. The films will be cataloged and Web-based finding aids for the programs will be created. The Libraries will be seeking an additional $75,000 in private funds to complete the project.
A complementary benefit to this effort will be the identification of those programs significant enough to warrant film-to-film duplication. Though this type of duplication is beyond the scope of the current project, it is critical to the long-term preservation of the films.
The Sheridan Libraries encompass the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and its collections at the Hutzler Reading Room, Garrett Library and the George Peabody Library.
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