The David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History has received a $1.5 million gift from Barbara A. Tyson and the Tyson Foods Foundation to fund the process of digitizing, cataloging and indexing footage and archives from the Little Rock-based ABC affiliate KATV, Channel 7.
The archives include about 26,000 hours of video and film — more than 50 years’ worth of footage — and were donated to the Pryor Center in 2009, according to a press release from the University of Arkansas, who said it’s one of the largest local television news archives in the country. The Pryor Center rejoined the UA’s J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences in June.
In addition to the digitization and preservation process, the gift will help pay for necessary staff and consultation service hires in addition to potential facility upgrades tied to the project, according the UA.
Most of the footage has not been seen by the public since it aired, so the newly created KATV Preservation Project “will provide a unique opportunity for researchers, students, educators and the public to gain new perspectives about Arkansas history,” according to the press release.
“These are our shared stories and memories,” said former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, namesake of the center with his wife.
Both were present at a ceremony on Thursday (Nov. 2) in the lobby at 1 E. Center St., which is home to the center.
“There’s a wealth of history in this footage, and in serving as a United States senator for many years I came to deeply appreciate the rich experiences of our Arkansan citizens. Preserving these tapes is preserving our state’s history, and we are grateful for Barbara and Tyson’s commitment to doing so,” Pryor said.
The archives are now being stored at the Arkansas State Library in Little Rock.
“Digitizing the KATV collection has been a priority of ours for years,” Randy Dixon, director of the Pryor Center, said in a press release. “Many of the videotapes are fragile, and the collection has been deteriorating with each passing year, so we felt a sense of urgency to complete this project as quickly as possible. Thanks to this gift, we’ll be able to move forward with preserving these important parts of our state’s history.”
The Tyson Foundation has a history of donating to the Pryor Center, giving $2 million in 2005 as an endowment for the center, which was founded in 1999 as an outreach service of the UA history department, with $220,000 in seed money from the Pryors.
“Just think about all of the major historical events that have taken place over the past 50 years,” Archie Schaffer, retired executive and consultant to Tyson Foods, said in the release. He is also a member of the advisory boards for the Pryor Center and Fulbright College. “Imagine what kind of footage is buried in these tapes and what sort of treasures will be found through the digitizing and preservation process. This is a gift to all of Arkansas and beyond.”
The Tyson gift to the Pryor Center will go toward the Campaign Arkansas total, an ongoing capital $1 billion campaign to raise private gift support for the university’s academic mission and other key priorities.