Museum of Broadcast Communications Archives Are Back (Sort Of)

February 21st, 2017 Update: The Museum.TV Digital Archives have apparently been offline since November 2016. The limited searchable database remains available. It now includes over 19,000 records.

Original Post:

Remember when the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) had some 8,500 hours of radio and television programs digitized and freely available online? Remember when the MBC had a searchable database of its entire collection? If you’re not familiar with the saga of the MBC Archives, here’s a quick refresher.

A Useful Resource Disappears

The MBC Archives used to be searchable online. Included were 100,000 hours of radio and television programming, 12,000 commercials, 3,000 photographs, and 2,000 artifacts. It was a valuable resource for historians, researchers, and radio/TV fans curious to learn if specific TV programs and episodes survived.

A selection of 8,500 hours of radio and television programming were digitized–as were thousands of photographs and images of artifacts–and could be accessed for free online. All you needed was a free registration. Those 8,500 hours included two episodes of Janet Dean, Registered Nurse, the 1981 PBS documentary special “Making M*A*S*H,” the wonderful 8-part documentary series Television from 1988, multiple episodes of various Star Trek TV shows, the “Miss U.S. Television Grand Finals” DuMont special from September 1950, and much more.

At some point in June 2011, the MBC Archives became inaccessible. They returned a few months later only to disappear again in mid-2013. An article in the Chicago Reader published in May 2015 revealed that “a ‘server crash’ destroyed access to the 10 percent of the museum’s archive of radio and television programming that had been digitized.”

Limited Access to Collection

That was the end of the story until last month when limited access to the MBC Archives was restored. The new MBC Online Collections Database contains just 7,485 records. Of those, 6,316 fall under the TV/Radio category. Another 1,527 are Artifacts.

(Yes, those two numbers add up to more than 7,485 records. There must be some overlap.)

(As of February 21st, 2017 there are 19,477 records. Of those, 17,292 are TV/Radio and 2,185 are Artifacts.)

Aside from only including a fraction of the old MBC Archives, the new online database is far from ideal. The interface is clunky and I don’t trust many of the dates. For example, an episode of Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club is said to be from 1944.

Some Digitized Content

A very small number of TV programs–just 74, by my count–can be watched online through the new Museum.TV Digital Archives. A free registration is again required. Nearly all of these are news or documentary programs. They’re are a mix of network and local Chicago programs. Here are a few samples:

Some of the dates here are wrong as well: coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is said to be from January 1982 rather than January 1986 while coverage of the 1960 Republican National Convention is supposedly from 1956.

Screen capture of the new Museum.TV Digital Archives website

The new Museum.TV Digital Archives (Courtesy of the Museum of Broadcast Communications)

Still, despite the issues, some access is better than no access. Hopefully, the MBC is hard at work on improving and expanding its new Online Collections Database as well as the new Digital Archives. The MBC is also seeking donations so it can recover and restore the 8,000+ TV programs that used to be offered online. Supposedly it will cost $40,000 to get that digitized content back online.


11 Comments

  • Garibaldi says:

    This response to your tweet – https://twitter.com/tvobscurities/status/697965819532328960 – pretty much says it all:

    “We were massively irresponsible in a way that a 19 year-old IT intern would mock, so give us more money to try again!”

    Why start with just 74 videos? Because Bruce Dumont is desperate for cash, I guess and needs to show proof of SOMETHING. Donate now!!!!!

    Can anyone confirm that the MBC archive’s physical space was cut in half last year to make room for a steak house’s industrial ops? Do the tapes & artifacts all smell like meat now?

    http://chicago.eater.com/2015/7/20/9006585/stk-chicago-renderings

  • Conway says:

    3 weeks later they have 104 videos. Progress is… still a long way from 8,500. Lots and lots of Folkfest and Our World.

    The museum web site is Museum.TV, right? So why is the web archive called Museum TV Digital Archives? Did the MBC misplace the dot? Then one line below it says –

    Public access to the Museum.TV Digital Archives provided by the Paul M. Angell Foundation

    Hey, there’s the dot! Can they not afford 2? Also do they know it’s the Paul M. Angell FAMILY Foundation? They should probably get the name right if they want to keep receiving money.

    http://pmangellfamfound.org

  • Joss says:

    The archives were last updated in April. I wonder if they ran out of money. The ‘Tomorrow’ episode featuring Steve Dahl and Meat Loaf ( not broadcast in 1975, for anyone paying attention) was the last video uploaded to the archive site.

  • Sheila says:

    Yikes!

    http://chicagoradioandmedia.com/news/8339-news-notes-harpo-studios-wkqx-moody-radio-steve-bertrand-kevin-matthews-steve-cochran-stephanie-miller-more

    In 2009, Kevin Fuller (pictured) was arrested for possessing and trafficking over 300 child pornography images — many of which were of graphic and violent sexual abuse of infants and young children. A federal prosecutor in the case called it “some of the worst images we’ve ever seen.” Police confiscated a computer from Fuller’s home, which he claimed was only his and used by only him. Federal investigators also subpoenaed Google to get access to Fuller’s email account with had more graphic child porn images. Fuller was sentenced in 2011 to six years in prison. What makes this sad and ugly story Chicago media-related is that at the time of his arrest, Fuller was living with his friend and companion, Chicago-based syndicated radio host Bruce DuMont. They had been living together in DuMont’s small (1,500 square foot) Oak Park home since 2003 and close friends since at least 1997. No charges were ever filed against DuMont, as Fuller took all the blame. DuMont never publicly commented on the situation, refusing all interview requests. One would think that a public figure like DuMont, who also is the President of the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications and National Radio Hall of Fame, would want to avoid that type of controversy in the future… but one would be wrong. Fuller was released from federal prison (serving less than his full sentence) this past winter and it was DuMont who traveled east to pick him up. The two are again living together. A few years ago, DuMont moved from Oak Park to a one-bedroom condo at 405 N. Wabash Avenue in Chicago. This year, Fuller, who has to stay registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life, legally registered his new home address as the very same 405 N. Wabash Avenue.

  • They call me MISTER Rogers! says:

    More on the MBC and it’s president – from last month…

    http://chicagoradioandmedia.com/news/8410-museum-of-broadcast-communications-seeking-to-replace-bruce-dumont

    The Chicago-based Museum Of Broadcast Communications (MBC) is finally seeking new leadership, as its President and founder, Bruce DuMont is now willing to step aside. The controversial DuMont, who originally did not wish to retire until at least the end of next year, will begin his slow exit at the strong urging of others within the museum. To many in the industry, this change in command has been long overdue.

    Officially, DuMont is voluntarily retiring from the MBC, claiming the decision is entirely his own, although in reality, there is far more behind it.

    DuMont is not leaving immediately, though. He will remain at least until a successor has been found and begun in the MBC President role. This could take up to a year. In the meantime, DuMont will stop being so prominent at events for the MBC and National Radio Hall of Fame (NRHOF). (DuMont took over the NRHOF in 1988 and merged it into the MBC.)

    The search is expected to be a lengthy and extensive one. The new President will most likely come from outside the MBC, not from within the Board of Directors. Candidates being sought out must have proven successful experiences in a development/fundraising and leadership of a large non-profit institution, museum, and/or entertainment venue.

    Ron Culp, veteran Chicago public relations executive and Graduate PR/Advertising Program Director at DePaul University, has been tapped by the MBC Board to lead the search for potential candidates to fill the role of President of the MBC. The Board hopes that new leadership will drive the vision of the 34-year-old museum well into the 21st century.

    Many familiar with the museum know that David Plier, WGN-AM talk show host and CEO of Retail First Corporation, has been the Vice President of the Board of Directors for nearly 14 years, as well as a very active and visible member of the museum board. While it would seem like Plier would be a good fit as MBC leader, it is not a role he currently seeks.

    Reaching out to Plier via email this weekend, he steadfastly declined to make any comment about the DuMont situation. All he would say is that he is committed to being CEO of his retail environment company for years to come.

    DuMont started working in radio in 1968 as a producer for WGN-AM, first for “Extension 720” and later for “The Howard Miller Show.” DuMont wished to be heard on the air, and not just work behind the scenes. In May 1973, he joined AM 1590, then using the call letters of WLTD-AM (now WCGO-AM). There, DuMont got his wish to be on the air, serving as both the host of a game show and an investigative reporter/interviewer.

    DuMont moved to WBEZ-FM in 1980 and launched a political discussion show named “Inside Politics.” The show proved popular and Chicago Public Radio did some minor syndicating of the show to a handful of other public broadcasting stations in the 1980s. DuMont moved his weekly show to commercial radio, joining WLS-AM in 1992 and soon after changing its name to “Beyond The Beltway.” In 1995, that program began its national syndication.

    After over 22 years on WLS-AM, the station decided to drop the “Beyond The Beltway” show in February 2015. It soon after was picked up by WCGO-AM as its Chicago flagship station. “Beyond the Beltway” also airs on a slight delay in Chicago on WIND-AM. Nationwide, the radio show is heard on over 20 affiliate stations.

    During the warm weather months, DuMont broadcasts the show from the radio/TV studios located inside the MBC in downtown Chicago. During the cold weather months, DuMont does his portion of the show from a Los Angeles radio studio, while his panelists are in the Chicago museum studio. (DuMont lives in Los Angeles during the winter.)

    DuMont also spent many years working in television. In 1978, he joined WBBM-TV/CBS 2 as a producer for live TV and documentaries. He moved to WTTW-TV/WTTW11 at the end of 1982 as a producer and to serve on-camera as the station’s Senior Political Analyst. DuMont hosted the “Illinois Lawmakers” program on WTTW-TV from 1987-2006, which discussed Springfield politics.

    A television version of “Beyond The Beltway” airs in Chicago on WYCC-TV on Sunday nights and on Comcast 100 on Monday nights.

    When DuMont was just 25 years old, he tried his hand at politics, unsuccessfully running for Illinois State Senator.

    Even with his media and political background, DuMont may be best known as the founder and President of the MBC.

    The MBC was founded in 1982 by DuMont. However, it was not until June 1987, when the MBC made its debut as a physical location, opening up in a building in River City in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. June 2017 will be the 30th anniversary of a physical location for the MBC — a date DuMont has long looked forward to. He wants to be a part of that anniversary celebration, should there be one.

    In 1992, the MBC moved to the Chicago Cultural Center, where it stayed until the end of 2003. DuMont claimed it would be less than a two-year hiatus while the MBC waited for its new building to be built and ready to open in the first half of 2005. The “hiatus” went on for far longer than two years. The MBC did not open its doors to the public at its new location until June 2012.

    Construction on the new museum, which was replacing an aging parking garage located at the corner of Kinzie and State Streets, was delayed and stalled repeatedly. DuMont blamed the government and the contractors, while most put the blame for the many varied delays squarely on DuMont’s shoulders.

    To put it in perspective just how long construction took on the new MBC location… The Trump International Hotel and Tower, located along the Chicago River, was started well afterward; in March 2005. That building — the 11th tallest building on the planet — was fully completed in August 2008. The much smaller four-story MBC building, whose project started over a year before Trump’s, wasn’t completed until nearly four years after Trump’s.

    The many years of having no physical location is only one of many controversies surrounding DuMont and his management of the organization. The new museum itself, while quite large, is also quite sparse, with very little for its few visitors to enjoy. According to those in the know, DuMont still has many dozens of rare television and radio artifacts stored away in warehouses (and even in some personal homes) gathering dust. DuMont has refused to put them on display for the public, despite the urging of staffers. Countless hours of rare television footage is not made available for website visitors, despite years of promises that these would be digitized and placed online. Past staffers have mentioned that some rare items have been “misplaced” by DuMont, including precious kinescopes. Ideas on ways to increase visitors to the museum, and ways on increasing funding for the organization are routinely dismissed by DuMont, leaving many to fear about the MBC and NRHOF’s long-term existence under DuMont’s leadership.

    DuMont’s brusque management style, which has upset and alienating many paid staffers and volunteers over the years, is well known.

    With the NRHOF, DuMont was a frequent lightning rod for controversy, with many years of inductees personally selected by him, and “agreed to” by a select steering committee of hand-picked DuMont associates. Many politically conservative figures were inducted by DuMont, including President Ronald Regan, whose only radio experience was being a part-time baseball announcer in Iowa for a few years, and bigoted anti-gay radio announcer James Dobson. Some worthy candidates, like Howard Stern, were purposely omitted from the NRHOF for many years, while far lesser inductees were welcomed in. It wasn’t until the last few years that DuMont finally succumbed to pressure and stepped back from the process, hired respected radio executive Kraig Kitchin to be the NRHOF Chairman, and opened more transparency on the nominating and voting process to the public.

    DuMont has also made been the subject of public controversy outside of the MBC or his media career.

    Kevin Fuller is DuMont’s close companion. The two have been friends since the mid-1990s and living together since 2003. In 2009, Fuller was arrested for possessing and trafficking over 300 child pornography images — many of which were of graphic and violent sexual abuse of infants and young children. A federal prosecutor in the case called it “some of the worst images we’ve ever seen.” Police confiscated a computer from the small Oak Park home Fuller and DuMont shared, which he claimed was only his and used by only him. Federal investigators also subpoenaed Google to get access to Fuller’s email account, which contained even more graphic child porn images. Fuller was sentenced in 2011 to six years in prison. Although no charges were ever filed against DuMont, as Fuller took all the blame, many wondered about DuMont’s relationship with Fuller and the pornography, which he surely had to have knowledge of.

    DuMont never publicly commented on the situation, refusing all interview requests. He also asked a major newspaper media reporter that he was friendly with to not mention the incident. This reporter, known for some questionable ethics, has continually agreed to DuMont’s request.

    Former employees of the MBC tell CRM that there is a situation that ties the DuMont/Fuller relationship to the museum. DuMont had hired Fuller to work at the MBC well before Fuller’s arrest. (Fuller stopped working at the MBC before his arrest.) In the basement archives, there were a pair of discs together — one marked “Kevin’s back-up” and one marked “Bruce’s back-up” (or something along those lines). The disc with Kevin’s name on it contained an abundance of video and photo gay porn, possibly even child porn. The FBI was called and questioned one of the employees about the disc’s contents. However, since it could not be determined if the teenager seen on the disc was truly a minor or not, no new charges were filed against Fuller. The MBC ex-employees claim that gay porn was also found on an MBC computer tablet used by those working the front desk. When questioned by the Board, DuMont has denied any knowledge of the content found on these MBC discs and computers.

    Fuller was released from federal prison (serving less than his full sentence) this past winter and it was DuMont who traveled east to pick him up and bring him back to Chicago. The two are again living together. A few years ago, DuMont moved from Oak Park to a one-bedroom condo at 405 N. Wabash Avenue in Chicago. This year, Fuller, who has to stay publicly registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life, legally registered his new home address as the very same 405 N. Wabash Avenue.

    After the information about Fuller again living with DuMont was revealed on this website last month and another public outrage over DuMont erupted, those behind the museum held conversations with DuMont to discuss his future with the MBC. Out of those conversations came DuMont’s decision to speed up his exit and his agreeing to step back from MBC public appearances.

    Despite all of these controversies, there have been some positive developments with the MBC this year, as well. This summer, Josh Culley-Foster was appointed to the role of Vice President of Development and Justin Kulovsek was appointed Vice President of Marketing and Innovation. The two are working on ways to better the MBC’s attendance with new exhibits. The MBC currently is home to the national exhibits “Here’s Johnny: The Making of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” which will be on display through October 15th, and “Watching TV in the 90’s,” which debuted this summer. Both of these have helped greatly increase 2016’s attendance at the museum. Of course, still on display and still popular with local visitors is the original set from “Svengoolie,” plus salutes to Chicago’s legendary family programs “Bozo’s Circus,” “Ray Rayner & His Friends,” “Garfield Goose and Friends,” Bill Jackson’s “Cartoon Town,” and WGN-TV’s beloved “Family Classics.” The MBC also has done rather well this year with renting out its fourth floor for private parties, corporate meetings, weddings, and banquets.

    Bruce DuMont’s uncle was Allen B. DuMont, founder of DuMont Laboratories, which made the first television sets for consumers in 1938, and founder of the DuMont Television Network, which launched in 1946 as the first commercial television network.

    Dumont, now 72, is a native of New London, CT, but has lived in Chicago since he was in his teens.

  • They call me MISTER Rogers! says:

    The archive has said ‘Site under maintenance’ since Thanksgiving.

    • Robert says:

      I haven’t been checking in and didn’t realize the digital archive has been down. I’ve updated my post with this information. Thanks.

      The searchable database is still working and is now up to over 19,000 records.

  • Jon says:

    You’re right about the archives having questionable dates. I looked up Jeopardy! from the link http://museumtv.pastperfectonline.com/advancedsearch
    and found that the special NBC daytime 2000th episode, actually aired Feb. 21, 1972 (45 years ago today!), gives the broadcast date 01-31-1968, and the final episode from the original series, actually aired Jan. 3, 1975, gives a broadcast date of 01-02-1971. There is also an episode listed with the date 06-26-1970, which I suspect is the still-existing episode of Jun. 27, 1974. I am fortunate to have seen all 3 of these myself. I suspect that there is some day calculation which is throwing off the original dates by about 4 years. This glitch would also explain why the Don McNeill Breakfast Club episode has a 1944 broadcast date listed.

  • Jerry Pleiman says:

    I’m trying to purchase a vcr tape or cd of the Midwestern Hayride TV show produced in the1950’s era. contact me at [email protected] broadcast out of cincinnati WLW

  • Kenneth Preston says:

    You should put the TV archives on YouTube. especially the vintage local TV shows and complete network first-runs.

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