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Press Release
September 20, 2002

First DVD to "Talk" to Users Wins Industry Award

WGBH Boston's "Abraham and Mary Lincoln - A House Divided" Lauded for Innovative Audio Navigation Feature
BOSTON, MA. WGBH Boston, producer of such groundbreaking PBS programming as NOVA, ARTHUR, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, and FRONTLINE, and the pioneer in the field of access technologies for disabled audiences, was awarded a DVD AT ITS BEST GOLD RING AWARD during the recent DVD L.A. Fest in Los Angeles. The award was presented to WGBH for the menu design of the three-disc DVD package, "Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided," an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE miniseries produced and directed by David Grubin. The DVD's innovative audio navigation, or "talking menu" feature, is the first of its kind, and a model to the industry.

About WGBH
WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Its best-known productions include NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, This Old House, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH also is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards-- even two Oscars. For more information visit

In addition to closed captioning and video description, services developed by WGBH for the benefit of viewers with hearing or vision loss, the DVD's talking menus enable users to access all the DVD's features through audible menus. The DVD was co-produced by AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and WGBH Interactive in collaboration with Planet Studio, a graphic communications firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. The audio navigation feature was developed by WGBH's Media Access Group. Funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The six-hour miniseries on the Lincolns paints a vivid picture of the complicated relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd — people from drastically different backgrounds who loved each other passionately, quarreled intensely and shared many personal tragedies. Using historic dramatizations and reenactments, interviews with historians and experts, and historic documents and illustrations, the film weaves together the lives of the two Lincolns. It also shows how their troubled lives paralleled that of a nation at war and describes the impact of Lincoln's brutal assassination on the country and the sanity of his wife.

Originally broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on February 19-21, 2001, the three-part debut of Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided was very popular among television viewers - Nielsen estimated that 16,750,000 people watched some part of the broadcast.

Television critics throughout the country praised the documentary as well. The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Grubin and Geoffrey C. Ward have successfully merged the broad sweep of history with the prickly nuances of individual relations — the series grows richer with every hour." The Los Angeles Times had this to say: "American Experience resumes being TV's preeminent U.S. history teacher when rolling out Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided — [a] smart, moving, beautifully mounted three-parter — David Grubin's documentary stands head and stovepipe hat above the crowd." And the Chicago Tribune said: "Made under the glorious banner of American Experience, this ambitious and compelling six-hour joint biography ought to be required viewing — an example of a near-perfect realization."

In addition to the complete documentary with audio description (narration of key visual elements such as facial expressions and settings), audible menus, closed captioning and Surround Sound, the three-disc set includes exclusive interviews with the film's creative team; original narratives drawn from letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers, 19th-century African Americans and women; and other special features — all of it accessible.

With NEH support, free copies of the DVD were distributed to 1700 teachers and librarians in all 50 states. Many sent their thanks for the audio navigation, including Jim Allan of the Texas School for the Blind in Austin, who wrote, "I thought the effort put in to make this DVD accessible should be lauded. THANK YOU!! It is a special moment when students who are blind get to use the same materials and receive robust information independently!!!" The DVD may now be purchased by calling 1-800-PLAY-PBS (1-800-752-9727), logging on to or visiting selected Borders, Barnes & Noble and Store of Knowledge bookstore locations.

For more information on the DVD At Its Best Gold Ring Awards, and the DVD L.A. Fest, visit Awards Release.htm.

Press contact:
Mary Watkins
Media Access Group at WGBH
(617) 300-3700
(617) 300-2489 TTY

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