Paley Center for Media

George Eastman House Exchange
 Craig Dingwall
The Paley Center, New York

Craig Dingwall is visiting the USA in May as part of the NFSA’s George Eastman House exchange program. Craig is a telecine operator (the process of transferring motion picture film into video form) and colourist in the NFSA preservation team.

The Paley Center’s permanent media collection contains nearly 150,000 television and radio programs and advertisements, available in both New York and Los Angeles. The online database offers synopses, along with production credits for the programs. I had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca Paller, one of the main curators. She was really enthused to meet someone from the NFSA, as she knows of our reputation, and gave me a full tour of the centre.
Some of the video and audio labs

In a building adjacent to the main exhibitions are Paley’s video/audio labs and office areas. The centre is currently undergoing a digitisation project of their collection. They source material from VHS, Umatic, 1-inch and digital Betacam. They are saving uncompressed 8-bit masters to LTO tapes and creating 4MG Windows Media files for the video viewing section. The video lab is quite impressive and has the full range of equipment necessary for transfers. Audio is transferred in the same area. At this time they have 860 35mm films with no way of transferring them in-house.
Real Emmy awards sit in the replica of William S Paley’s CBS office

I was then led into the main office areas, where a replica of William S Paley’s office at CBS has been recreated, including real Emmys. William Paley was the chief executive who built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States. Rebecca and I paused in this office to have a cup of coffee and talk about our organisations. She was very interested in our activities and we soon discovered that there are many similarities between the NFSA and Paley Center.

I also gave her a brief tour of the NFSA via my digital camera and left her a few pamphlets.
Part of the listening and viewing section

We continued with the tour of the listening and viewing sections. The audio area contains around 10 stations. Researchers are able to access digitised radio programs via the centre’s database. Each booth has a computer terminal and earphones, so the researchers can listen in relative isolation. We then moved on to the video viewing area. This section contains around 50 terminals that researchers can use to view digitised video clips from the database. Apparently Jerry Springfield often visits this area when he is conducting research about American TV. Clients can obtain segments and copies of programs through the copyright clearance manager. This can only be achieved by having a signed letter from the copyright holder of the work. After my tour, I spent around two hours searching their database myself and found a few Australian programs such The Thorn Birds (1983) and Ocean Girl (1994–97).

In addition to the centre’s research areas, they host exhibitions and guest speakers from the media industry.

Image: The Paley Center Museum of Television and Radio in New York City. Photo by David Shankbone. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic licence.