The Say Brother Collection
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WGBH is a public television station located in Boston, Massachusetts, and is PBS's largest producer of nationally distributed programs, including NOVA, Frontline, and ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre. The WGBH Media Archives and Preservation Center (MAPC) acquires, organizes, preserves, and provides access to the WGBH Educational Foundation's historical records and production assets, whether paper-based, magnetic or digital in format.

Say Brother is WGBH's longest running public affairs television program by, for and about African Americans, and is now known as Basic Black. Since its inception in 1968, Say Brother has featured the voices of both locally and nationally known African American artists, athletes, performers, politicians, professionals, and writers including: Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Thomas Atkins, Amiri Baraka, Doris Bunte, Julian Bond, Stokely Carmichael, Louis Farrakhan, Nikki Giovanni, Odetta Gordon, Henry Hampton, Benjamin Hooks, Jesse Jackson, Hubie Jones, Mel King, Eartha Kitt, Elma Lewis, Haki Madhubuti, Wallace D. Muhammad, Charles Ogletree, Babatunde Olatunji, Byron Rushing, Owusu Sadaukai, and Sonia Sanchez.

Since Say Brother debuted, WGBH has been accumulating materials related to its production: masters (or the final broadcast version of a program); original footage; audio tapes; and papers (such as correspondence and research notes). Until the early 1980s, masters for Say Brother programming were on two-inch videotape although, as at many television stations in the 1970s, production staff erased many masters to record new programs in an effort to offset the high cost of two-inch tape. Because of this cost, Say Brother employed portable 1/2-inch reel-to-reel tape and 3/4-inch videotape for on-location interviews and event taping.

These formats are not standard today. Despite the best preservation efforts, this videotape has succumbed to the frailties of the format: breaking, buckling, creasing, shrinking, scratching, fading, and suffering from fluctuations in temperature experienced over its lifetime.

In 2000, MAPC applied for, and received, a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Archives and Special Collections Preservation and Access grant to arrange, describe, and reformat Say Brother master programs available on two-inch tape, as well as related field footage and any program and producer files dating from 1968 to 1982. The NEH selected Say Brother programming for the prospective grant over other collections because it is an irreplaceable cultural resource that charts Boston's African American community from the post-Civil Rights era to the present.

As per the scope of the grant, Say Brother media materials were identified, appraised, and reformatted in keeping with current WGBH preservation standards: 2-inch videotape was re-mastered to both Betacam SP and Digital Betacam for preservation, with VHS dubs made for screening purposes; documentation was cleaned and re-foldered; and photographs were placed in inert polyester sleeves.

Programs were reviewed in their entirety using VHS or Beta copies. Descriptions were entered into a FileMaker Pro 4.1 database developed in-house. Information about program segments, guests, subjects, organizations, and production staff was collected for each of the 215 programs. In addition, descriptions were prepared for the original footage, and paper documentation was grouped by function. Using scripts designed by Thom Shepard, the project's database consultant, the database content was exported to HTML and presented to WGBH Interactive for the development of this Web site.

Descriptive access was based on existing standards in the moving image cataloging field. Works consulted include Archival Moving Image Materials: A Cataloging Manual by Wendy White-Hensen and Moving Image Materials: Genre Terms, compiled by Martha M. Yee. Subject access for the collection was developed using Library of Congress subject headings. Also, a collection level MARC record has been submitted to the Research Libraries Group, Inc.'s (RLIN) bibliographic database. While summary information for programs is available on this site, more extensive descriptions can be found in-house.

Samples of Say Brother programs were selected for digital excerpt based upon an desire to "bring to life" the show's subject matter and bring to light opinions expressed by Say Brother staff. Clips were excerpted using QuickTime Pro and captured and compressed on an Apple PowerMac workstation. Additionally, the first frame of each clip was converted to a JPEG image file for use as a link to the QuickTime clip.

The individuals and departments at WGBH who worked with MAPC on the Say Brother Collection include:
    Sarah-Ann Shaw, Say Brother Collection consultant, who arranged the Say Brother Forum, October 2001, and worked with Boston's African American community to verify historical content and perform rights research.

    Applied Technology, which determined workflow related to the digitization of clips, provided technical assistance and secured server space.

    Interactive, which designed, developed and supported the Web site and compressed digitized clips for on-demand streaming.

    Production Services, which handled the digitization of the programs for use on the Web site.

    The Basic Black staff, who provided input on the Say Brother Collection web site.

collection history and arrangement:
introduction | history | scope + content | finding aid | access policies

search clips by:
program number | subject | personal name | corporate name

The Say Brother Collection Web site is a production of the WGBH Archives.
©2001 WGBH Educational Foundation.