UNCW receives grant to digitize WWAY’s videotape archive

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — News clips that would have likely never again seen the light of day due to their age and format are being digitized at UNCW, a process that will wrap up sooner than expected, thanks to a nearly $45,000 grant.

UNCW’s Randall Library received the grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources for the digitization of more than 1,400 u-matic tapes containing footage of news stories WWAY shot from 1982 to 1999 and constitute the portion of the collection most in danger due to their age, format and condition.

U-matic videotapes, also known as 3/4″ tapes, were the first videotapes housed in a plastic cassette to make them portable. The format became popular with television stations in the 1970s, as they allowed news crews to record directly onto the u-matic videotape.

Once these analog u-matic tapes are digitized, the library will make all of the files freely available through its digital collections website.

“Right now, this local news footage covering a key time in the region’s history is unavailable because of the format on which it is housed,” said Nathan Saunders, associate director for library specialized collections at Randall Library. “Digitizing the tapes makes this important record freely available not only to students at UNCW, but to anyone around the world interested in southeastern North Carolina.”

Randall Library received the tapes from WWAY in 2018, before the tv station moved from N. Front Street in downtown Wilmington to Leland.

Saunders said the preservation of the tapes constitutes a critical need due to their valuable subject matter and the rarity of such records.

“The footage contains a chronicle of a rapidly growing coastal region confronting a changing social and political landscape while navigating longstanding racial and environmental issues,” said Saunders. “These tapes are especially important because WWAY is one of only two area stations carrying television news since the 1960s and is the only station whose news collection is archived.”

Saunders said the news clips will be digitized by this time next year. It will still take some time to process through all the tapes once they get the scans, but this grant accelerates the project by years.

According to a news release, in addition to Saunders, several others at Randall Library were involved in obtaining the grant, including Special Collections Librarian Rebecca Baugnon, Digital Initiatives Librarian Ashley Knox and Digital Projects Specialist John Knox.

The grant is part of the Council on Library and Information Resources  “Recordings at Risk” initiative, a national program that supports the preservation of rare and unique media.

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