by Mark Carter
Posted 8/25/2010 05:35 pm
Updated 2 years ago
Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV, Channel 7, announced Wednesday that its video archive consisting of more than 26,000 hours of footage will be moved to and housed by the Arkansas State Library beginning this weekend.
KATV revealed last year its plans to donate the extensive collection to the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History at the University of Arkansas. The state library is providing the service free of charge, and will house the collection in a new, climate-controlled archive allowing officials from the Pryor Center to assess and digitize the tapes, currently in analog format. The tapes will be made available to the public, many for the first time.
Little Rock construction firm East-Harding Inc. is donating crews and trucks to help with the move, which is expected to take several days.
The collection contains video dating back to 1950, as well as film-to-video transfers dating to 1930.
"This is a big, big day, an important day," said David Pryor, former state legislator, governor, congressman and U.S. senator for whom the Pryor Center is named. "We're unearthing a buried treasure. There is nothing like this collection in the country. Nothing like it.
"We're so honored that Channel 7 would trust us with this collection."
KATV has long been known for its meticulous archiving, emphasized by longtime general manager Dale Nicholson. The tapes are stored in the basement of KATV's downtown Little Rock studios. Pryor noted that ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer once said on a visit to KATV that its archive was one of the most impressive she had seen, and that included networks. KATV is an ABC affiliate owned by Allbriton Communications.
Fred Ryan, Allbritton president, said his company didn't realize when it purchased the station 25 years ago just what it was getting in the Channel 7 basement, dubbed "the dungeon" by station employees.
"We knew for a while Dale had something in the basement at KATV," Ryan quipped. "We didn't know quite what it was."
Ryan called it the most extensive collection of Arkansas visual history in existence.
"It is a treasure trove of material," said David Gearhart, chancellor of the UA's flagship campus in Fayetteville, site of the Pryor Center. "We're very honored that we get to care, digitize and make this available to Arkansans everywhere."
Also on hand for the afternoon announcement in the Bessie Moore Conference Room of the State Library's new downtown Little Rock digs were Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (David's son), and UA system president Alan Sugg.
David Pryor and his wife Barbara were motivated to donate retired campaign funds to the UA for creation of the Pryor Center 10 years ago after learning that another Little Rock TV station, KARK, had discarded its entire video archive in the city dump after it moved to new facilities in downtown Little Rock. The center's mission is to collect, preserve and share the state's oral and visual history.
Beebe said all Arkansans and future generations will benefit from Allbritton's donation of the "KATV Collection."
"I'm champing at the bits to have a chance to see this," he said. A press release issued by the UA said it would require almost three years of round-the-clock viewing to watch the entire collection, which includes KATV's coverage of every major news, weather and sports event in the state from the past 50 years.
"No other state in America has anything like this," David Pryor said. "This is a big day for our state."