CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Historical researchers, documentary filmmakers and educators now have access to an online archive of television news reports during Virginia’s civil rights era.
The curated collection of film clips and anchor scripts from WSLS-TV in Roanoke is believed to be the only surviving TV news archive from that era. It includes news stories broadcast by WSLS from 1951 to 1971, the University of Virginia Library said Tuesday in a news release.
The archive is not limited to coverage of the civil rights movement and Massive Resistance efforts in Virginia. There also are news reports that depict life in Virginia in the mid-20th century, including beauty pageants and polio vaccinations of first- and second-graders.
As of Tuesday’s launch, the online archive contained 3,600 news clips. Another 13,000 clips and 18,000 pages of anchor scripts are expected to be posted by the end of the year.
The public can access the collection through Virgo, the library’s online catalog.
“This is the first big moving image digitization project done by the library that will be accessible to everybody,” Leigh Rockey, the library’s preservation specialist, said in the release. “Once people get in there and look at it, they’re going to be really excited, and they’re going to want to go through all of it.
“What’s interesting about the collection is that it’s not just one topic. It is everything, so you can provide a context for those more historically important clips that might have to do with Massive Resistance and the civil rights movement.”
Claudrena Harold, an associate professor of history at U.Va., said the archive will allow students to view news footage of events as they happened.
“What the acquisition of these sources does is put the University of Virginia at the center and at the forefront of documentary history,” Harold said. “It’s a great collection because you can have students read the material about a historical event, but nothing beats seeing it. Acquiring this is going to help us in terms of research, but also in terms of the pedagogy and really giving our students the opportunity to see up close and to get a sense of the rhythms of the movement and the people of the movement.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities provided a $254,600 grant to help pay for preserving and digitizing the collection, which the library acquired in 2004.
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