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WGBH Educational Foundation, Vietnam Project : Records, 1946-1985 (Bulk, 1979-1983)


53 cartons, 22 file boxes, 7 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes


In 1977, television director-producer L. Richard Ellison received funding to begin to research and develop The Vietnam Project, which first aired on PBS in 1983 as a thirteen part series entitled Vietnam: A Television History. WGBH, a Boston public broadcasting station, housed the Project and provided some financial support. Vietnam was produced by WGBH-TV; Antennae-2, a French channel; and Associated TV, a British program service (which became Central Independent TV). The Project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and others.
The archives of Vietnam: A Television History includes most of the material collected and created during the development and production of the television series. The collection falls into 13 series, which are broken into two groups: production and administration; and sources consulted and research materials. The series titles in the production and administration group include Executive Producer, Archivist, Producers, Interview Transcripts, Interview Audiotapes, Editing Room, and Educational Outreach Materials. The series titles in the sources consulted and research materials group include Project Consultants, Film Research, Still Photographs, Veterans Research, Vietnamese Literature Workshop Material, and the Sully Collection (a discrete collection). Several of these series have been arranged and described. Complete box lists are available for those not yet processed. Descriptions of the series, their titles in boldface, appear below.
The collection also includes 280,000 feet of 16mm film and corresponding sound track outtakes of original material shot by the Project (some not in synch), and 228,000 feet of 16mm film and corresponding sound track, and a number of videotape masters of stock footage workprint outtakes from 65 sources. None of this material (housed in 170 transfer cases) was included in the final version of the television programs, and much of it needs to be reconstituted. There are only a few indexes to the audio-visual portion, so access to it is complicated.

Scope and Content

Archivist, 1978-1984?
3 cartons
Vietnam Project Archivist Kenn A. Rabin's main function was to organize and maintain access to the film footage the project collected, or about which information was collected. Towards the end of the project, the archivist also coordinated the collection of files from the staff of the project.
This series consists of story cards, subject cards, computer printouts, story logs, shooting logs, and negative cutter s logs, all of which relate to film. Some key the film to subjects, others to the episode in which it was used. Some indicate in what repository the film was located.
Editing Room Files
4 cartons
This series consists of film production-related material including stock footage, sound, sync, and wild sound logs, and story card and assembly notebooks with scripts, organized by episode. It also includes a chronological list of stock footage, correspondence, notes, and memoranda.
Educational Outreach Materials, 1977, 1980-1984
1 carton
Margaret Ann Roth, Project Director, Vietnam Educational Materials, obtained several auxiliary grants for the creation of educational materials to accompany Vietnam: A Television History. Under the auspices of a 1981 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant, MAR oversaw the development of a telecourse, an audiocassette tape, and three publications including Steven Cohen, Vietnam: Anthology and Guide to A Television History (New York: Knopf, 1983). An additional FIPSE "dissemination" grant in 1983 provided for WGBH's study of the usage of the telecourse in order to evaluate the success of television broadcasts in educational settings.
This series consists of grant proposals, correspondence, reports, questionnaires, drafts, syllabi, and other materials that document MAR's work for WGBH and the development of a postsecondary curriculum by a television station. This series also provides information about the difficulties of preparing published materials for an educational market (which requires advance preparation) in conjunction with producing programs for television broadcast (which allows last minute changes of major proportions).
Executive Producer
Records, 1946, 1968-1985 (bulk, 1977-1983)
101/2 file boxes
In August 1977, WGBH-TV agreed to become the U.S. sponsor for L. Richard Ellison s (RLE) television series about the history of conflicts in Indochina, particularly Vietnam. RLE, a free-lance film and television writer-director-producer, had worked for CBS, NBC, NET, and PBS, and overseas for Time-Life Broadcast and Time-Life Films. As project director and executive producer, he was responsible for the difficult task of securing financial support as well as for overseeing every phase of the Project. In addition, RLE produced the final episode, "Legacies.''
This series contains executive producer files kept by RLE and his production secretary from 1977 through 1983. It includes correspondence, notes, and clippings. This series documents RLE's work on the Project and provides an overall view of the Project s daily functions, including fundraising, research, connections with WGBH and other U.S. and foreign broadcasting services, a trip to Vietnam, script development, production, post-production, and communication with consultants, veterans, and others.
Interview Audiotapes, 1979-1983
7 oversize boxes, 3 card file boxes
The audiotapes in this series are the sound reels for the audio-taped or filmed interviews conducted by (or on behalf of) the producers of Vietnam. For more information, see the Interview Transcripts series.
This series includes most of the original sound reels to the filmed interviews, and most of the audiocassette tapes used for transcribing the audio-taped and filmed interviews.
Interviews and Transcripts, 1979-1983
9 file boxes of transcripts and 280,000 feet of 16mm film and sound tapes

The interview transcripts and film footage are of filmed or audio-taped interviews conducted by (or on behalf of) the producers. Most of the interviews took place in the United States or Vietnam. Portions of many of the interviews appeared in the television programs.

This series includes most of the transcripts from the 280 interviews conducted for Vietnam: A Television History. Among the interviewees are Vietnamese, U.S., French, and British veterans, policymakers, anti-war protesters, peasants, doctors, journalists, refugees, and military and government officials with viewpoints and experiences from all sides of the conflicts and wars in Vietnam from the 1930s through the 1970s.
List of interviewees

Also included in this series is the 280,000 feet of film footage of the interviews conducted for the television programs. There is also sound tape of all of the interviews. The collection here is of the outtakes, material not included in the series. Many of the interviews are available in video format in the Archives and Special Collections Department.

The WGBH Media Library and Archives, in collaboration with UMass Boston and Columbia University, has digitized all of the interview footage and transcripts and have re-created the complete interviews. They also have digitized the transcripts. The interviews and the transcripts are available on the WGBH Open Vault web site as the Vietnam Collection.