The Archivability of Television and Related Media

Ed. collection, 15. September 2021.

CFP: The Archivability of Television and Related Media (tentative title)

Editors: Lauren Bratslavsky, Illinois State University and Elizabeth Peterson, University of Oregon

About the book: This anthology will critically engage and evaluate archives and archival processes that collect, order, and preserve elements of television and other media as historically, culturally, socially, politically, and economically significant material. What do we know about how television and radio have moved from ephemeral broadcasts, and mounds of paperwork documenting bureaucratic and creative processes, to become historical material housed in archives? How might scholars, archivists, librarians, media professionals and others work together to better preserve and understand television and media culture?

The overarching intent of the anthology is to interrogate where television as historical material ‘live.’ To do so, we aim to bring together scholarship by academics, archivists, and others about the processes and places that confer all sorts of television and related materials with historical value, or in some cases, where television almost or could have resided in such sites as archives, libraries, historical societies, museums, and private collections. Although the focus is on television, chapters which look at related issues in radio, film, and digital media archival preservation are encouraged and will be considered as well.

With these goals in mind, topics for the anthology include, but are not limited to:

-    How do we advance conceptualizations about value, specifically economic value to owners, and research value to scholars and historians? In what ways have the theories and practices of archives (such as the archival traditions of records management vs. historical manuscripts) resulted in ignoring television and ‘new media’? How are governing discourses about heritage, nation, identity, history, and other overarching conceptual frameworks implicated in the decisions and processes to collect and preserve certain forms of television and media over others?

-    What archival theories, histories, and processes do archivists, librarians, and others laboring at archival-type institutions wish scholars understood when it comes to contextualizing the presence of, or lack thereof, television-related materials in archival holdings? And what do scholars wish that archivists and others understood about the dynamics about the industries, technologies, and social significance of all sorts of television? In other words, what are some requisite shared epistemological, ontological, and other theoretical bridges between the scholars who use archives and the archivists/librarians/curators who steward the contents of and access to archives?

-    What are case studies of either specific institutions or genres? What are the histories of archives and archival collections with television-related material? How did those materials enter the archive, or alternatively what were interceding factors that prevented pursuing the establishment and preservation of television-related and other media collections that are less common? We are particularly interested in explorations that tackle products – programs and scripts – and the processes – the paper-trail about production and reception, unaired material, and so on.

-    What is the relationship between publicly-funded / non-profit institutions and the investment in the preservation and access to private, corporate, proprietary material? Relatedly, how does copyright and fair use figure in to television’s archivability?

-    What are the interventions that we, as media scholars, archivists, and curators of historical material, need to make about today’s television for future researchers? What are speculative “future histories” of the sorts of archives that we desire, and the more pessimistic prognostication about the paucity of materials with traces of television’s products and processes? Will our future archives be heavily skewed towards certain points in the life cycle over others?

This project is being developed for consideration by the Peabody Series in Media History from the University of Georgia Press, edited by Jeffrey P. Jones and Ethan Thompson.

Submit abstracts of 500 words, current CV (optional), and brief author bio to co-editors Lauren Bratslavsky (lbratsl@ilstu.edu) and Elizabeth Peterson (emp@uoregon.edu) by September 15, 2021. Contributors will be notified by October 2021. Full essays of 6000-8000 words will be due August 15, 2022. Questions about the project or expressions of interest prior to the deadline are welcome.

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Lauren Bratslavsky, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Communication
Illinois State University
309-438-7977  // 457 Fell Hall
pronouns: she/her/hers