About The Video History Project

The Experimental Television Center’s Video History Project is an on-going research initiative which documents video art and community television as it evolved in rural and urban New York State then spread across the US. Begun in 1994, the Project has several initiatives including research, conferences and this website.

Project Goals

  • to provide a dynamic vehicle for the creation and dissemination of an inclusive media history, encouraging participation by a wide range of people including early practitioners as well as those presently shaping this history
  • to identify, locate, and make accessible media history resources - tapes, artists’ instruments, writings and ephemera.
  • to underscore the importance of intellectual access to information and to position independent media arts activities within a broader cultural context by cultivating research and public programming of these materials by those in the arts, humanities and sciences
  • to increase public awareness of and appreciation for media and to create new audiences for the work by suggesting contexts in which the work can be appreciated.
  • to encourage alliances among collecting institutions and those with educational and curatorial programs to assist the preservation of the works

Significance of Our Endangered Media History

New York State hosted some of the earliest media activity in the nation, and was home to many media and artists’ organizations and individual practitioners. The State’s arts and cultural organizations house some of the most extensive collections of early video art and community television in the United States. With the first introduction of portable media technology in the late 1960s, creative and community-minded people worked alone and collectively, with a shared mission to train and equip ordinary citizens with the means of creating and distributing independent programming. Media makers explored video as an art medium and as a tool for social and cultural change, producing documentaries, narratives, conceptual, and image-processed work presented on cable and television, in regional and community venues and in art contexts.

Thousands of tapes by these pioneers of independent media are scattered throughout the State in rural and urban centers, in libraries, museums, media arts centers, artists’ spaces, universities, video collectives and in private collections. Along with the tapes themselves are other resources and documents which broaden our understanding of the works, and also the historical and social environments within which they were produced.

There are many possibilities for research, scholarship, education and public programming of these materials in the arts and humanities.

Unfortunately, this tremendous historical and cultural legacy remains largely unknown and difficult to access, while the tapes and documentation are deteriorating, at risk of being lost to future generations.

While the number and scope of media education and communications programs have expanded dramatically in the past decade, access to early video collections remains limited, and information is difficult to locate and access.

In an environment of rapid and dynamic technological change, the media arts field now encompasses new digital tools and systems which have profound implications for the creation of works and the interactions of audiences with works. With access to historical records and documents we can begin to explore the ways in which earlier arts practices inform the evolution of contemporary work and its position in culture.

By inviting people to help us make materials accessible, we work together to establish contexts for the study of early media projects, and increase public awareness about the work done over the last four decades.

By contributing information, you are fostering a dynamic and inclusive history, giving voice to the many independent media makers and organizations, small and large, that have worked to advance the media field.

The Center began work on the Video History Project in 1994. It is a reflection of our commitment to and participation in the media arts field since 1968, a concern with preservation of the artifacts of the history, and a recognition of the difficulty of accessing information and locating resources.

We invite your participation. Please contact us at [email protected].