The Newman Numismatic Portal works closely with the Internet Archive, using IA as the back-end storage for millions of pages of numismatic
content. Bibliophiles and information-lovers of all stripes will appreciate the foresight and dedication of a woman named Marion Stokes, who
single-handedly created a massive archive of broadcast news, now being added to IA. Here's a review from Hyperallergic of a new
documentary on Stokes. -Editor
Matt Wolf's documentary Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and is set to play at more
festivals throughout the summer, ruminates on this modern phenomenon via a fascinating, previously little-known figure.
The film's press materials describe Marion Stokes in perversely appealing terms: "a radical Communist activist, who became a fabulously wealthy
recluse archivist." The reality wasn't quite so straightforward, and the film paints a picture of a prickly, fiercely intellectual woman driven by
forces that at first seem confusing. Stokes started out as a librarian, and she and her first husband were devoted left-wing activists. Later she
began hosting a Philadelphia public affairs show with the wealthy John Stokes, who became her second husband. Stokes's money gave her the luxury of
time, and she took on a project that became her life's work. In 1979, during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Stokes began recording the news on VHS tapes
around the clock. She kept at this until her death in 2012 — in a tragic sign of the times, her final recordings captured coverage of the Sandy Hook
school shooting. Altogether, she recorded 70,000 tapes.
Recorder finds poignancy in Stokes's obsessive mission, rather than look at her as an oddity. The film becomes a treatise on the power of
archival work. With the advent of streaming and the shift away from physical media, it's easy to assume that everything exists online somewhere, and
will remain there indefinitely. This is patently untrue.
Many TV networks likely don't have much of the material Stokes recorded in their proprietary archives. Archiving is often given short shrift.
Media companies tend to focus on the future, and the budgeting of corporate overlords doesn't usually leave much room for things that might
uncharitably be referred to as "old." The Internet Archive's digitization of Stokes's collection is the culmination of her socialist mission. She
wanted information to be accessible, and she wasn't discriminating in what she recorded. The ephemeral material on her tapes — commercials, forgotten
local stories, jingles, lo-fi graphics, newscasters with bad hair — might be the most compelling stuff of all.
While Recorder is fairly conventional in structure with its incorporation of talking heads, it makes creative use of the archival riches
its subject collected. The snippets of tapes we see are grainy and often soothingly banal, the textured stuff of the past. It's not all nostalgia,
though. Wolf places Stokes's recordings in context. In one particularly effective sequence, he creates a grid of news channels in the moments leading
up to 9/11. The footage starts calmly, with a sinking feeling setting in as each show receives word of the event. Without any commentary, Wolf
succinctly shows us a moment in which the world shifted.
To read the complete article, see:
The Woman Who Recorded Decades of TV News on 70,000 VHS Tapes
Wayne Homren, Editor
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