The Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 28, 2003
April 28, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 32


Libraries Receive Grant to Preserve Pioneering JHU Educational Films

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Sheridan Libraries have received a grant of $150,500 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve a collection of more than 700 educational television films produced by Johns Hopkins between 1948 and 1960. The collection includes four programs: 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 university libraries.

Distinguished scientists featured in the films include George Gamow, a leading advocate of the big-bang theory of the universe; John Mauchly, who completed his doctorate in physics at Hopkins in 1932 and was 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 television actor John Astin, a 1952 Johns Hopkins alumnus who is currently on the visiting faculty.

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 program earned the George Foster Peabody Award for the outstanding educational program of the year in 1950 and 1952, and both TV Guide and TV Forecast honored the program with their 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 on scientific subjects, the other three programs produced broadened the spectrum of topics. Johns Hopkins File 7, the inspiration of 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 and will be the focus of a future phase of preservation activities for this distinctive collection.