will live on forever thanks to a group of volunteers and digitization.A Philadelphia woman’s collection of over 40,000 VHS and Betamax tapes
The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that catalogues everything from websites to TV shows. Michael Metelits contacted the organization last fall after his mother, Marion Stokes, passed away. She left her family an incredible compilation of recorded television programs spanning almost four decades.
Stokes began her collection in 1976. Tapes are as recent as 2012; she died that December from lung disease at the age of 83. Over the 36 years, Stokes recorded anything she thought might one day be important. Her son told The Daily Dot that the two events that prompted this were the Iran Hostage Crisis and the start of CNN, the first 24-hour cable news network.
According to Fast Company, Stokes ran as many as eight recorders simultaneously and around the clock following the advent of cable news. The recording would start late at night with six-hour tapes that would be replaced when she woke up, and then switched throughout the day either by her or a family member.
“One of the really important things about the way the Internet Archive is cataloging this is it’s going to enable people who maybe have a narrow view of events to get a sense of the historical sweep,” Metelits said to The Daily Dot. “This isn’t the first time Afghanistan's been a problem, this isn’t the first time a particular politician has been in the news. This is going to provide a sense of the rhythm of news stories, for people searching for a particular politician.”
The first series of tapes that the Internet Archive worked on involved a show called “Input.” Stokes and her husband, John Stokes, Jr., co-produced the program that aired on Sunday mornings in Philadelphia between 1968 and 1972. The talk show focused on political and social issues.
“My hope is that [the archive] deepens public perception of not only how news was made, but the actual politics underlying the news, to help people have a more informed, intelligent engagement with politics,” he told the website. “That was my mother’s dream for it.”
Trevor von Stein, an Internet Archive volunteer, curated this first batch of tapes from the collection. The shows and episode guide are available for a free download now on the Archive’s website.