Ambitious La. history preservation under way

by Van McNeil

A sample of some of the many archival videos available for viewing on the LDMA.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting has teamed up with the Louisiana State Archives for a unique project that aims to bring thousands of hours of historical video to the masses.

The Louisiana Digital Media Archive is a one-of-a-kind endeavor, the only project in the country that combines the collections of the state archives with those of a public broadcaster. It’s an effort to preserve these authentic pieces of history, as these tapes are deteriorating rapidly, which is great for us, as many of these videos are now becoming available for free to anyone with an Internet connection.

So exactly what sort of videos are we talking about here?

For decades now LPB has featured award-winning news and local programming, insightful documentaries and interviews with public figures. The State Archives hold collections of many of the state’s oldest and most prominent news broadcasters — newsreels, campaign ads, oral histories, they’ve got ’em all.

Users can browse the website by topic, with subjects as varied as food, sports, education and politics. The interface is simple, making it easy to search or browse for any video in the collection. (Caveat: The site is still a little glitchy in terms of getting videos to load.)

Ever wonder exactly what President John F. Kennedy said on his visit to New Orleans in 1962? Perhaps you’d like to see how flagrant a political display the Thanksgiving dinner at Gov. Edwin Edward’s mansion was in 1972. Maybe politics aren’t your thing and you’d like to see a Cameron Parish alligator hunt from 30 years ago, Oh, you don’t like the ruckus of an alligator hunt? Why not watch a segment featuring Acadiana Con, a 1979 sci-fi convention held in Lafayette? Ya nerd!

It’s essentially the Netflix of Louisiana history, and it’s enough to make a stoic man weep with joy. This project ensures that future generations can explore their history easily and more clearly than ever. The benefits are endless, and to the curious it’s worth checking out.

This has me so excited I may have to watch a local tax debate from 1982 to calm myself down.