Community Television - Capturing History As It Happens!

The following story was submitted by Ned Lightner. It points out that a large part of the value of community television is not just its current broadcast signal, but the history it's recording. We tend to think of history as that which happened 100 years ago, but it could be that which happened yesterday...images and sounds that will never again be created and which, without community televison, might be lost forever.

And not only are we recording events, we're recording our way of life, which is very quickly disappearing, we are recording parts of our lives which will never happen again, and we are recording our older generations which we are losing. And community television is doing it in a way that network television no longer does and which new media such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, and site du jour are incapable of.

By Ned Lightner of Channel 2, Community Television for Belfast, Maine

For the past year, Belfast Community Television in Belfast Maine has served as the host site for the Maine Community Television archive project. This project which was funded by the Maine Humanities Council as well as the Maine State Archives, has been seeking submissions from community stations in Maine that have historically significance.

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Ned Lightner interviewing Capt. Robin Walbridge of the HMS Bounty shortly before Walbridge was lost at sea on October 29, 2012 during "superstorm" Sandy.

These videos were cataloged and uploaded to archive.org, a portal to a wide variety of sound and moving images. There is a sub-collection on archive.org called “Maine Community TV Archives”. This collection of videos is available for all to view and download. Perhaps it is a public access program director looking for interesting content, or it could be a historian working on a particular project.

At the same time that we were working on the archive project, our station was working with our local historical society producing a series of programs on various aspects of Belfast history. Some of the programs involved interviewing older citizens of our town on their memories of times past, including working in the now defunct poultry and sardine factories. A couple of the programs involved adding narration to a collection of home movies recorded between 1930 and 1975. They included everything from a local bicycle race, to shots of a train wreck, to people walking along Main Street.

As we were working on the project, I was amazed at how fascinated I was by looking at such non-historic events such as people cheering bike riders along Main Street. The way folks dressed, the way the downtown had changed, were all fascinating to me. Seeing people working their regular jobs, that no longer exist, was really interesting.

I realized there were many aspects of life today that I am capturing with my video camera, that may indeed be of interest to people 40 years from now. With that in mind I have been visiting local factories and getting tours of their operations. I have interviewed fisherman on the local fishing industry, and made an effort to just capture life in Belfast as it is today. Some of these programs are being donated to our historical society, while others have been uploaded to the Maine Community TV archives”.

I have found an added purpose for the programs I produce about our community. It’s funny how something that at the time seems relatively insignificant at the time can take on historical significance in relatively short time. An example was when I interviewed a sea captain on his boat about how he dealt with stormy seas. This captain was Robin Walbridge on the HMS Bounty. When Captain Walbridge, along with one of his crew members, perished in a storm as the Bounty sunk off the coast of North Caroline just three months after our interview, his words were given greater significance.

You never know when you have some historically significant footage. I have no idea whether archive.org or video data files will be around 50 years from now, but I am hoping they will, because I think we community television producers have an important role in capturing history as it happens!