TV’s Lost & Found: Television Archives and Museums

There are a handful of television archives and museums in the United States that together contain hundreds of thousands of hours of television programs. These include the Library of Congress, the Paley Center for Media, and The UCLA Film & Television Archive. Some are open to the general public while others are restricted primarily to scholars and researchers. Most have made it possible to search their collections online, although online catalogs may be incomplete. Many academic institutions hold smaller, specific collections, often pertaining to an individual or a specific television program.

What follows are descriptions for some of the larger television archives and museums.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting

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A collaboration between the Library of Congress and PBS station WGBH, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting launched in 2009. An inventory project carried out between 2010 and 2012 resulted in more than 2.5 million inventory records. Over 100,000 hours of content have been digitized and roughly 60,000 assets are accessible online.

The Library of Congress

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According to the collections overview provided for television, the Library of Congress began collecting television programs in 1949 and today holds about 80,000 programs but that number may be substantially higher. Some of the more noteworthy collections held by the Library include: the NBC Television Collection, the NET Collection, and the Hubert Chain Collection. Additional information on the Library’s television holdings can be found here.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications

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Founded in 1987, The Museum of Broadcast Communications has a collection of more than 85,000 hours of television and radio broadcasts dating back to the mid-1940s. Currently, only about 27,000 records are searchable online.

The Paley Center for Media

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Broadcaster William S. Paley founded The Paley Center for Media in 1975 as the Museum of Broadcasting. In 1991 it became Museum of Television & Radio and in 2007 became The Paley Center for Media. There used to be two locations, one in New York City and the other in Los Angeles, but the Los Angeles location closed in 2020. The Paley Center maintains a list of television programs it’s searching for.

Peabody Awards Collection

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The George Foster Peabody Awards honor excellence in radio and television broadcasting, with the awards bestowed for programs produced during the previous year. The first radio awards were distributed in 1941 and the first television awards in 1949. Housed at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Peabody Awards Collection contains approximately 90,000 radio and television programs.

UCLA Film & Television Archive

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The John H. Mitchell Television Collection at UCLA Film & Television Archive contains more than 170,000 television programs, including the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences/UCLA Collection of Historic Television.

Vanderbilt Television News Archive

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The Vanderbilt Television News Archive started recording the nightly network news programs for ABC, CBS and NBC in August 1968, adding select cable news programs in later decades. Digital copies of entire broadcasts or compilations of segments from various broadcasts are available for loan for a fee. A monthly index to the ABC, CBS and NBC nightly news program as well as special network programming can be found here.

Published November 6th, 2010
Last updated June 29th, 2021


13 Replies to “TV’s Lost & Found: Television Archives and Museums”

  1. …After looking at what Vanderbilt charges for their dubbing services, it’s clear they’re not in it for the profits, as the rates are a lot cheaper than the so-called “discount” See-BS offered me just for six VHS tapes 20 years ago of Apollo 11 coverage. Makes me wish I had a kid going to VBU just to take advantage of the student discount there to get dubs of all the Apollo-related clips they’ve got on tape. What that archive needs is, say, an online sample of the quality of the tapes they have so prospective customers can “try before they buy”; i.e., pick ten news shows at random, dub them to YouTube, and show the varying degrees of quality that are available thanks to tape degradation, playback head damage, etc, etc.

  2. Need to find a episode of a Phil Donhue show from 1977 or 1978. Guest was a author who wrote a book on death or grieving a lost one. I was in the audience and want to find a copy of that episode. Please help.

    1. Hi, I just posted a comment about trying to find an episode that I was in the audience for too. Mine was the Dinah! show (Dinah Shore) taped in Miami back in 1979.
      Did you ever find what you were looking for and if you did how did you go about it?

  3. I am trying to find a copy of an episode of Dinah! January 9, 1978 (Episode 79, Season 4).
    Dinah Shore is the hostess. This was an episode taped in Miami Beach. I was in the audience with a
    bikini on and I had to ask Dinah a question after Lonnie Shorr did some comedy stick. I was in college then
    and I would love to be able to see this now after all these years. I just can’t seem to find a way to do it or who
    would have this footage of that particular episode. My family saw me on TV back home but I never got to see it
    for myself. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!!! Gail

  4. I am trying to find an episode of video village Junior what makes it unique is my brother and I were dancing the twist at the beginning I’m trying to find it from my mom who has cancer and is dying she want to see it if there’s anyway possible you can help me find this I will be glad to pay whatever I do thank you so much

  5. What are the possibilities of airing the tv series “The Man and the Challenge starring George Nader to dvd and also The Troubleshooters with Keenen Wynn & Bob Mathias.

  6. I am looking for a tape for a show shot in LI around 1975-76 called The Middle Age Blues.
    It was a documentary with Art Carney and me (Bob Gofonia).
    it was aired (on TV) on the west coast and travel east to New Tork.
    thanks for your help.
    bob . .

  7. i remember a show that i cant remember the name but i think part of it is in the “free antenna tv” comercial ,towards the end the man goes “ahh” “ahh” “ahh” with 2 ladies sitting at a table. do you know this show?

    1. I’m trying to find a TV episode of a morning
      Talk Show on KABC television “AM Los Angeles “ that aired in the early 80’s. It featured hosts Christina Ferrari and Steve Edwards. My mom was a great bakery and pastry chef and was invited to perform some of her traditional European specialties. I’m trying to find this for my library.

  8. Looking for a Vidio or film record during the Vietnam conflict by nbc, cbs, and abc. Between Jan and July 1967. Record showing a night target in the Delta being destroyed by a c-47 gunship recently introduced to Vietnam. Camera crews were abord, and above the gunship using 20SOS ch-3c helicopter as their photo platform. Thank you. Jim

  9. Hi. I am looking for a local show of St. Louis, MO named Gods Musical World hosted by Kenneth Billups that aired on Sundays. In particular, I’m looking for the taping of a show my grade school choir performed in 1976, 1977 or 1978 (not sure which year) . I sang solo on a song and was hoping to obtain the video. The stations we had then we’re KPLR-11, KNDL-2, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. Who would I contact? I appreciate any help or direction you can provide. Thanks

  10. Does anyone know how to go about getting something from the Paley center?
    I am trying to source a copy of The Time of Your Life episode of Playhouse 90 and they seem to be the only one that holds a copy.

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