University of Baltimore RLB Library Awarded CLIR Grant for Recordings at Risk

WMAR-TV Collection graphic
On April 30, 2021, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) announced the award of nearly $553,000 to fund 17 Recordings at Risk projects. Among this year’s recipients is The University of Baltimore Foundation for the 12 month project: “Preserving and Providing Access to Baltimore Television News Station (WMAR), 1980–1985,” led by the Special Collections & Archives department at the Robert L. Bogomolny Library.

“We are delighted CLIR has recognized the importance and urgency of digitizing these at-risk WMAR-TV tapes by awarding us this grant,” Library Dean Jeffrey Hutson said. “Our goal in this project is not only preservation but access. It’s exciting to know that one year from now these tapes will be available online for all who wish to see and study the issues of the early 1980’s from a local viewpoint.”

The Special Collections & Archives department at The University of Baltimore maintains a rich collection of WMAR-TV news recordings which includes unique footage depicting significant historical events, cultural and racial issues, and political and social changes in the Baltimore region. WMAR-TV, the first television station in Maryland, began broadcasting news reports in 1947.

This television news footage has been recorded on a variety of media over time, including U-matic videocassettes, which is a well known obsolete audiovisual medium in danger of degradation. Analog audiovisual recordings are at risk because of the fragility of their formats, lack of usable playback equipment, and environmental threats such as humidity and temperature. 

This project will digitize 975 U-matic tapes in the WMAR-TV collection spanning 1980 to 1985, and make them available online to both local and scholarly communities through the Internet Archive website. This is the first step in a larger project aiming to ultimately digitize the entire archival collection and thereby help preserve the news coverage of historical events pertaining to the Baltimore region.  

This is the eighth cohort of the CLIR Recordings at Risk award. Visit the CLIR announcement for more about the award and the recipients. 

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. To learn more, visit and follow CLIR on Facebook and Twitter.

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