Going Digital


You may remember back on November 21st, FTVLive told you about Marion Stokes.

She is the woman that recorded every Philly newscast on VHS for 35 years.

Now, her collection is going to go digital

The Philly Inquirer reports that by 2012, when Stokes died at her home on Rittenhouse Square, she had filled roughly 140,000 videocassettes with about a million hours of programming.

How much is that? If someone watched eight hours a day, every day, it would take 342 years to see it all. Together, the tapes weigh about 31 tons, a little more than a railroad freight car.

"My mother had a keen sense of the uniqueness of her mission," said Michael Metelits, 53, who helps run Overdue Press, a new e-publishing company. "She would resist, forcefully, anybody who told us this was useless or a waste of time."

She was possessed, he said, by a belief that the miles of news footage would someday, some way, prove useful to somebody.

And they have.

On Tuesday, the tapes are due to arrive at a warehouse operated by the Internet Archive in California, a giant on-line library that plans to digitize the videos and make them available to the public. The gift will expand the archive's collection of national news, and open new, local collections on Philadelphia and Boston.

The project is expected to take years and cost at least $2 million.

"We were awestruck by two things," said Roger Macdonald, Internet Archive director of TV archives. "One, the size of the collection. And two, the human story behind it, that one person could create so extensive a collection."

Stokes, who died last December at 83, worked for the Free Library from the 1940s to the early 1960s, but was much more than a librarian - social-justice advocate, technophile, investor, thinker, reader, and, at one time, coproducer of a local Sunday-morning TV talk show.