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U. of Virginia Uploads 20-Year Archive of TV Station’s News Footage

The University of Virginia’s library has unveiled a 20-year trove of digitized news footage and anchor scripts from WSLS-TV, a local station in Roanoke, Va. The online material, covering the years 1951 to 1971, includes some 3,600 clips of silent, 16-millimeter film footage in black-and-white and color, with nearly 10,000 more remaining to be digitized and uploaded.

Among the clips is July 1968 footage from a demonstration protesting a local business college's decision to deny admission to two black students.

Among the clips is July 1968 footage from a demonstration protesting a local business college’s decision to deny admission to two black students.

While the archive touches on some of the most difficult and divisive issues in American history, including desegregation and the Vietnam War, the bulk of the material reflects the day-to-day diet of local broadcasting—soap-box derbies, beauty pageants, speeches by mayoral candidates, strikes by employees of local businesses, house fires, automobile accidents. The archive contains numerous sports stories as well.

The library believes the collection is the only comprehensive archive of local TV news available online. The university acquired the collection in 2007, after a graduate student visited the station in search of footage for a project and station officials mentioned that they had run out of room to store their 16-millimeter film. The National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $254,000 to help the university digitize and post the material.

A page on the library’s Web site highlights some of the most interesting clips in the collection, while the full archive is searchable through the library’s catalog.

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