In 1953 the University of Houston made history when KUHT-TV debuted as the first ever educational television station.
“In the early days it really led the way in educational programming,” said Emily Vinson, an audiovisual archivist in the University of Houston’s Special Collection at the M.D. Anderson Library.
Almost 65 years later, the early history is at risk of being lost forever. Before returning to UH the archives sat deteriorating in old film canisters, now UH’s Special Collection at the M.D. Anderson Library is working to preserve that history by digitizing more than 2,000 films and 12,000 videos.
“Once you lose the bits and bytes that make up a video file there is no getting it back,” Vinson said.
The preserved digital files are valuable for researchers, documentary film makers and scholars studying Houston and other big issues of the day.
“I think it is a really remarkable insight into the time it portrays,” Vinson said.
Over two hundred videos from the collection are already available online, and Vinson continues to move films from the old cans to new housing to help them live as long as possible before being digitized.
“Hopefully we will then be able to maintain that file in perpetuity and never have to touch the original film again,” Vinson said.