Alternative Primary Sources for Studying Australian Television History: An Annotated List of Online Pro-Am Collections

Introduction

It is possible to write many different histories of Australian television, and these different histories draw on different primary sources. The ABC of Drama, for example, draws on the ABC Document Archives (Jacka 1991). Most of the information for Images and Industry: Television Drama Production in Australia is taken from original interviews with television production staff (Moran 1985). Ending the Affair, as well as archival work, draws on “over ten years of watching … Australian television current affairs” (Turner 2005, xiii). Albert Moran’s Guide to Australian TV Series draws exhaustively on extant archives: the ABC Document Archives, material sourced through the ABC Drama department, the Australian Film Commission, the library of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and the Australian Film Institute (Moran 1993, xi).

In fact, the histories we can write depend in part on the resources—both primary and secondary—to which we have access. Archiving practices “affect and produce the kinds of histories that can be written” (Mosely and Wheatley 2008, 153). An important part of the process of media history is identifying, and making visible to other scholars, the archival resources that are available. In many cases these are institutionally-housed and clearly delineated (see for example Roessner 2009). But other forms of archive exist.

Formal and Popular Archives

I have shown elsewhere that the formal archives of Australian television held by the National Film and Sound Archive favour particular institutional histories of the medium—they place news, current affairs and serious drama at the heart of Australian television history at the expense of game shows, lifestyle programs and soap operas, for example (McKee 2011). But other archives exist. Hartley, Green and Burgess identify:

… published histories (trade and academic), exhibitions and shows in cultural institutions, memorializations of television on television and memorializations by ‘ProAms’, both in physical sites and on the Internet (Hartley,Green and Burgess 2008, 227)

As part of an ARC Discovery Grant entitled “Australian television and popular memory: new approaches to the cultural history of the media in the project of nation-building” I have been exploring the ‘Pro-Am’ archives of the medium. Pro-Ams are, as defined by Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller, “innovative, committed and networked amateurs working to professional standards” (Leadbeater and Miller 2004, 9). Such work can be important—researchers have recognized that ‘private collections’ of audiovisual materials can serve an important purpose, filling in gaps where collecting institutions have traditionally shown little interest (Kirste 2007, 135). And there exists a healthy Pro-Am sector involved in the archiving of Australian television history materials. In this paper I present an annotated list of some of the most interesting of these collections, and suggest that they might contribute to our work in writing histories of the medium.

The question of the status that should be accorded to popular archives remains contested. There exists an emerging tradition of writing on popular archives such as YouTube (Gracy 2007, 194). This academic writing compares these archives with traditional sources of information. Within the tradition there are two key approaches. Both approaches find differences between popular archives and traditional sources of information. But they evaluate those differences in different ways.

The first—more common—approach takes traditional sources of information as the standard against which others must be judged. Any differences between popular archives and traditional sources of information are taken to demonstrate a lack on the part of the informal sources. The archives are evaluated using criteria such as “information quality” (Stvilia et al. 2008), “reliability” (Rahman 2008), “credibility” (Korfiatis,Poulos and Bokos 2006), “completeness” (Royal and Kapila 2009, 138), “authority” or indexing (Wallace and Van Fleet 2005, 101). Sometimes these studies conclude that popular archives are “nowhere near as bad as might be expected” (Stvilia et al. 2008, 984). More often they reach conclusions along the lines that a popular archive “can be shown to be an unethical resource unworthy of our respect” (Gorman 2007, 274) (Gorman, 2007: 274). But in this approach popular archives are judged on the extent to which they fail to be traditional reference sources (Hilderbrand 2007, 54; Juhasz 2009, 149).

However, a second tradition also exists, one that I personally find more interesting. This compares popular archives with formal sources of information, maps out the differences, and asks what the strengths and weaknesses are of each (see for example Hilderbrand 2007, 49; Burgess and Green 2009, 89). Don Fallis for example notes that:

… there are many other epistemic virtues beyond reliability … [including]  the epistemic values of power [“how much knowledge can be acquired from an information source”] , speed [“how fast that knowledge can be acquired”] and fecundity [“how many people can acquire that knowledge”] (Fallis 2008, 1668)

From this perspective popular archives should be judged on their own terms. We can ask what they contribute to the project of Australian television history, rather than simply dismissing them for not functioning in exactly the same way as formal archives (for a more extensive discussion of this issue see McKee 2011).

Popular Archives of Australian Television History

There exists, then, an extensive network of Australian Pro-Am television historians who collect old copies of television programs, memorabilia, production materials and technical equipment. I explored this network in a number of ways: I was already in contact with private collectors Chris Keating and Andrew Mercado from previous research projects, and through them I “snowballed” to others. I also contacted other researchers and curators in the area seeking out contacts: Nathalie Apouchtine, who has worked on the Media Archives Project at the Centre for Media History, Macquarie University; Peter Cox of the Powerhouse Museum, who organized the collection “On the Box: Great Moments in Australian Television’; and Chris Harris at ACMI, who organized “TV 50”.  I identified a number of Pro-Am historians, made contact, and spoke to them about their collections.

At the same time, and just as importantly, I followed the connective lines of the Internet. The Internet has proved vitally important for Pro-Ams. As Leadbeater and Mills note, being “networked” is a key element of Pro-Am culture. In the case of this project there exist several online resources where Pro-Am collectors gather to discuss the project of Australian television history: for example, the Wiped Clean facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=265814743873, which is the facebook page of a documentary, currently in production, about the standard industrial practice of wiping tapes with old television programs on them); and the Australian Television Archive (http://austv.hostforweb.com/cgi-bin/cgi2/index.rb). Through these sites it was possible to find other Pro-Am historians. By these two approaches—finding collectors and finding online collections—I was able to create a list of available Pro-Am archives online.

Obviously a listing of only online materials is not exhaustive—most of the collectors to whom I spoke had extensive physical collections. But studying online archives is useful for two reasons. First, these archives themselves are rich resources for media historians, providing much information that is instantly available to researchers. And second, they provide useful guides to what exists in the offline world. One might worry that physical collections would be excluded, but this is not the case—even collections of physical memorabilia can have an online presence. Some of the most interesting materials I found were physical objects online, such as the scans of Crawfords production paperwork at the “Tribute to Crawfords Productions” site (http://www.crawfordproductions.net/).

Uses of Popular Archives

Having gathered this information about online Pro-Am archives, the question remains of what to do with it. As the first stage in this ongoing project, I am keen simply to make information about these collections available as widely as possible. This paper is inspired in part by the ongoing series published in Journalism History which provide details about “archival collections of interest to mass communication historians” (Lumsden 2004, 40) in the form of annotated lists of their contents; and by the ‘Archival News’ section of Cinema Journal, which lists not only new items acquired by formal collecting institutions, but also online resources (Higgins and Ross 2008). As John Hartley has argued, the study of Australian television history is still in the phase of “primitive accumulation” of data (Hartley,Green and Burgess 2008, 224). We are nowhere close to having a commonly agreed set of data on the important elements of such a history. At this stage in the development of the object of study, then, it seems useful to make as much historical material as widely available as possible.

This paper, then, provides an annotated list of the most interesting online primary sources for studying the history of Australian television, listing the title, URL, and a brief description of the nature and content of the resource.

These online private collections of Australian television history materials represent what John Hartley has described as a “probability archive” (Hartley 2010, 10). I have previously analyzed the differences between traditional formal archives, and online archives such as YouTube, along a number of lines—the kinds of material collected, their indexing and accessibility, and, importantly, what I called the role of “serendipity” in exploring these archives (McKee 2011). I noted that it is much more the case with YouTube than with the NFSA that you never know exactly what you are going to find. You may visit a URL hoping to find a particular video clip, only to find that it has been removed from the collection; but on the other hand, in your searching you may stumble across something that you weren’t expecting but that perfectly fits your research requirements. “Probability archive” is Hartley’s term for such resources: “[a]lthough its content is random and chaotic … the probability is high that you’ll find something related to what you’re looking for” (Hartley 2010, 10).  In the private online archives listed in this paper it may be difficult to guarantee finding a particular moment of a particular program; but if you are looking for an advert that usefully demonstrates the mode of address of 1970s television, for example, then it is highly probable that you’re going to find something interesting in the archives discussed here.

All links were current as at the 24 June 2011.

Audio-Visual Content — YouTube Channels et al

Blasts from the past … (Conniptions886′s YouTube Channel)

http://www.youtube.com/user/Conniptions886

There exist several YouTube channels run by enthusiastic amateur historians of Australian television. Each provides a fascinating mini-archive of audio-visual material from the history of the medium. This is not always programming material. “Absolutely love old TV commercials”, says this YouTube channel, and its 455 videos of old Australian TV content particularly focus on adverts, promos, station idents, title sequences and short clips from programs. Material hails from all decades of the medium, from the 1950s onwards. It is a wonderful probability archive—I would never knowingly have searched for 1960s adverts for Jatz biscuits, but I now know of them as a powerful resource for understanding how that era laid its claims to being stylish. Title sequences from Rush and Ben Hall give the feel and essence of programs, boiled down to 30 intense seconds. Bloopers also get a run, such as the live episode of Millionaire Hot Seat where the crew goes on location and the camera lens fogs up (8 June 2009). Station promos—such as GTV9’s from 1971—show the identities that stations wanted to construct for themselves. Even the station clocks are recovered as being worthy of archiving. And exploring this probability archive, stories emerge that would not be possible without access to this new, primary archival source. For example, the cultural cringe around television hosts in the 1950s stands out loud and clear, with clips from Time for Terry (“hosted by English comedian and entertainer as well as jazz musician Terry O’Neill”—Wikipedia), Revue 61/62 (“A variety show headlined by Englishman Digby Wolfe”—Memorable TV Australia), the Alf Garnett Australian TV special, and the fact that, as this site annotates one clip, “US entertainers Ken Delo and Jonathan Daly were enormously popular in Australia in the early 1960s.”

The types of material collected here are typical of private collections. Interstitial material—station idents, promos, title sequences and adverts—is often represented particularly strongly in such archives. John Hartley has written about the importance of such material, which he calls “continuity” (Hartley, 1992: 165). He suggests that it represents television at its purest:

Continuity is the gap between programmes … You may not notice that you’re watching it even while you are watching it. It’s filled with familiar emblems, oft-repeated slogans, jingles, images and ideas. It’s used to promote the channel that you’re watching [and] the programmes you might watch on that channel … It’s the yardstick against which all the other TV genres can be measured (Hartley, 1992: 165)

In the everyday practice of consuming television this material vanishes; but in private collections it becomes centrally important. “You may not notice that you’re watching it”—but these collectors do. In a sense they collect television at its purest; not programmes per se, but the medium itself.

It is interesting to ask to what extent external factors dictate this focus, in particular the length of videos allowed on YouTube and concerns over copyright. YouTube doesn’t allow videos longer than ten minutes, so obviously it favours shorter material. But it is clear that many of these private collectors had an interest in interstitial material before YouTube appeared (and, as I note, this collector explicitly states his love for adverts). The issue of copyright is more complex. Some collectors brazenly ignore copyright rules (see below); but it is true that some other collectors choose not to circulate their copies of program content which copyright owners might still be interested in monetizing, leading to a focus more on interstitial materials.

AusTVClassics YouTube Channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/austvclassics

This YouTube channel represents a very different (perhaps more Am and less Pro) tradition of private collections. Relying on easily accessible material available from recent broadcasts or commercially-released DVDs, this is an incredible, copyright-baiting resource for historians of Australian television. While most YouTube channels skirt around the issue of copyright, only posting small amounts of copyright material, or sticking to material where there is little chance of the copyright holder still retaining a strong interest in monetizing the content, this channel is aggressively uninterested in the issue. The collector has uploaded literally hundreds of full episodes of Australian television programs. Already posted are complete runs of Always Greener, Fire, The Henderson Kids, Police Rescue and Sons and Daughters. There are complete seasons of A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, Hey Dad, Home and Away, Mother and Son, Neighbours, The Sullivans, and Sweat. The episodes are organized for easy access (all the ten minute segments grouped together on the channel page). They are numbered, but not annotated in any other way.

The Vault (D0nkeyshines YouTube channel)

http://www.youtube.com/user/d0nkeyshines

Another YouTube channel which takes advantage of the medium in order to make public the collection of an amateur historian, with hundreds of short videos posted. The collector has a particular interest in one program, the children’s educational program The Curiosity Show (1972-1990). Several complete episodes of a range of kids TV shows are posted in segments. But the collection also focuses on interstitial material—station idents, with a focus on Adelaide (where the collector lives); broadcast promos for television promos (such as Bligh); adverts (“Barnacle Bill”) and title sequences. It is interesting to note this last is one of the few ways that news and current affairs programs are represented in popular archives.

Retrooldcommercials YouTube channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/retrooldcommercials

A YouTube channel devoted to “old commercials and station IDs” (462 as at 24 June 2011). The idents are catalogued by station and year, and range across a number of cities. Again, the adverts are useful as a probabilistic archive—you may not be able to guarantee finding a particular advert, but the process of serendipity may allow you to find something relevant—and stumbling across a 1984 advert for Commodore 64 computers shows you what computing looked like in the 1980s: the computer, high tech and slightly ominous, flies through the starscape of outer space. It is also interesting to note that ads from the 1980s and ’90s are “heritage” enough to attract the interest of collectors.

Neighbours Episodes Online (Aussiesoaps2010′s YouTube channel)

http://www.youtube.com/user/Aussiesoaps2010#p/u

Another YouTube channel which merrily ignores copyright laws, this hosts dozens of complete Neighbours episodes, each uploaded as three segments. Most are recent, running up to mid-2010, although there are also some older classic episodes, including “The first episode of Neighbours ever”. The lack of attention to the laws of copyright may be why the collector notes (without much apparent concern): “This Account Has 2 Strikes Against It 1 One [sic] And It Wll [sic] Be Suspended”.

OldSchoolAussieTV

http://oldschoolaussietv.blogspot.com/

This website presented a fascinating ontological question when researching private collections of Australian television history materials. The webmaster has not collected any original materials. Rather he has curated a collection from YouTube. The site lists 41 Australian television programs: A Country Practice, Acropolis Now, Blue Murder, Bush Tucker Man, C’Mon Kids, Carsons Law, Comedy Company, Cop Shop, Countdown, Curiosity Show, Family Feud, Fat Cat and Friends, Henderson Kids, Hey Dad, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Home and Away, It’s a Knockout, Kingswood Country, Leyland Brothers, Malcolm Douglas, Mother and Son, Mr Squiggle, Neighbours, News, Norman Gunston, Paul Hogan Show, Perfect Match, Peter Russell Clarke, Prisoner, Pugwall, Romper Room, Sale of the Century, Shirls Neighbourhood, Simon Townsend’s Wonder World!, Skippy, Sons and Daughters, The Early Bird Show, The New Price is Right, The Sullivans, Wheel of Fortune and Young Talent Time. Each program has a page describing it, often with the show’s logo, and links to a number of YouTube clips of the program. Is this a useful archive? As the webmaster describes his practice: “I have spent a large amount of time filtering through the ‘crap’ to bring you the best viewing pleasure.” And on reflection, I think that such curating work is an important part of the Pro-Am practice of writing the history of Australian television. As Hartley has argued, the work of “redaction” (editing) becomes an increasingly important part of massively distributed knowledge systems (Hartley, 2003: 83); and it’s worth including this online resource if only to show that Pro-Ams are conducting the work of curating archives as well as of “primitive accumulation”.

Australian Television Themes

http://webspace.webring.com/people/la/austv/

Not YouTube, but a collection only of AV material, this site provides .ram files of theme tunes from 59 Australian TV programs (including All Together Now, Bullpitt, Family Feud, Perfect Match, Good Morning Australia and Healthy, Wealthy and Wise) organised by genre (including Games/Reality and Variety/Infotainment). Once again, the interest in interstitial material is notable.

Explicitly “Archival” Sites

Australian TV Archive

http://austv.hostforweb.com/cgi-bin/cgi2/index.rb

Run by a keen private collector of old Australian television programs, this site has many fascinating sections, of which the most interesting is perhaps the ‘Archivists Reference Manual’. This technical section includes details of all video and audio formats, and offers Tutorials on the restoration of various video and film formats (for example, ‘How to bake a tape’ informs the reader that baking old video tapes in a domestic oven provides a temporary fix for aging problems, allowing them to be transferred to more durable formats).  As Leadbeater and Miller argue, Pro-Ams are emphatically not just amateurs:

A Pro-Am pursues an activity as an amateur, mainly for the love of it, but sets a professional standard … it involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, often built up over a long career, which has involved sacrifices and frustrations (Leadbeater and Miller 2004, 20)

This is clearly demonstrated in the training offered in this site, which makes visible the expertise developed by these private collectors. As well as this content the site also offers detailed information about the history of Australian television broadcasters, some background about programs and personalities, and a collection of audio-visual material for download. The collection is generically familiar for a private archive, the site provides an extensive collection of station idents and program promos (station idents including regional tv stations as well as the major city stations). Also featured are dozens of adverts, mainly from the 1980s, divided by product category (most in the category “Food”). It also features short clips from around sixty Australian TV shows: Aunty Jack, Australia! You’re Standing in it, Beatbox, Beyond 2000, Blankety Blanks, The Box, Celebrity Game, Chopper Squad, Class of 74/75, Concentration, Cop Shop, A Country Practice, Curiosity Show, A Current Affair, The Darryl Somers Show, Division 4, The Don Lane Show, Double Dare Goes Wild, 11am, Family Feud, Ford New Faces, Four Corners, Glenview High, Graham Kennedy Moment, The Happy Show, Here’s Humphrey, Homicide, Hunter, IMT, It Could Be You, It’s a Knockout, KTV, Let’s Make a Deal, Leyland Brothers, Matchmates, Mavis Bramston, Midweek Lotto, Mother and Son, Mr Squiggle, Neighbours, Number 96, Off the Beaten Track, Paul Hogan Show, Perfect Match, Playschool, The Price is Right, Prisoner, Restless Years, Romper Room, Rush, Sale of the Century, Secret Valley, Skippy, Sons and Daughter, The Sullivans, Tonight with Bert Newton, Wheel of Fortune, Simon Townsend’s Wonder World! and The Young Doctors. The clips are representative and there is no attempt to creative an exhaustive archive of any program. There is a strong focus, again on opening or closing title sequences. The site also includes a section called “Television history reference”. This has a massive section on TV broadcasters, with separate history pages for every broadcaster state by state. This focuses very much on the technical side of things—“In 1959 ATN was the first station in Australia to install videotape equipment”.

Search for the Long Lost Countdown episodes of the 1970s

http://1970scountdown.atspace.com/

This site is devoted to searching for Countdown episodes that have been “wiped” by the ABC, and has managed to track some of them down. The site provides a detailed account of every bit of Countdown—full episodes and excerpts—which exist at the ABC or in private collections. The focus is strongly on the collector’s attempts to track down missing episodes. It also makes clear the professional expertise of Pro-Am television historians in Australia. It describes vintage video players, and presents an account of the old video recorders the collector has bought and restored in order to play old tapes. Also of interest to researchers is the detailed textual analysis the collector has undertaken in order to place clips (very similar to the work done by book historians):

As I’m aware that Countdown performances are repeated in future episodes to save on the artists coming in to perform again and again I believe that half the performances on 1/3/75 episode 9 are clips from some of the 1974 shows that were repeated on this show, I can see in those clips there is the old studio layout where instead of plastic Countdown C’s dangling down on the main stage there are plastic strips instead which can be seen in clips from the 1st episode

As well as technical training for aspiring Pro-Am historians, the site also offers “Some tips on where to search for old videos”.

From the same collector, see also Countdownclips (http://www.youtube.com/user/countdownclips).

Informational Archives

TV Eye: Classic Australian TV

http://www.classicaustraliantv.com/index.html

This informational website is based substantially on original historical research, some of which has previously been published by the same researcher in the Pro-Am “fanzine” TV Eye, of which 15 issues were published quarterly from September 1993. The site provides information about Australian drama series produced from 1954 to 1977. The site provides exhaustive coverage of every such series: The Adventures of Long John Silver, Adventures of the Seaspray, A Nice Day at the Office, Barley Charlie, Barrier Reef, Bluey, Bobby Dazzler, Boney, Case for the Defence, Cash & Company, Catwalk, Chopper Squad, Consider Your Verdict, Contrabandits, Delta, Division 4, Dynasty, Emergency, Glenview High, The Godfathers, Good Morning Mr Doubleday, The Group, Hey You!, Homicide, Hunter, I’ve Married a Bachelor, Joan and Leslie, King’s Men, The Last of the Australians, The Link Men, The Long Arm, The Magic Boomerang, Matlock Police, Mrs Finnegan, My Name’s McGooley – What’s Yours?, Nice and Juicy, Our Man in Canberra/Our Man in the Company, The Outsiders, The People Next Door, Phoenix Five, Riptide, Rita and Wally, The Rovers, Rush, Ryan, Shannon’s Mob, Silent Number, Skippy, Snake Gully with Dad ‘N’ Dave, The Spoiler, Solo One, Spyforce, Tandarra, Whiplash, Woobinda (Animal Doctor) and Young Ramsay. For each series there is a detailed and well-referenced original article (including factual information about production and reception, drawing extensively on primary sources of information), and an episode guide. The site also reproduces nineteen extremely informed and detailed interviews from TV Eye, both with actors (Leonard Teele, Rowena Wallace) and production staff (Ian Crawford, Ian Jones).

Australian Television Information Archive

http://www.australiantelevision.net/index.html

Probably the best known online source of non-AV material about Australian television history thanks to the work of Kirsty Leishman (2008), this site provides information about a limited number of Australian drama series. Recent programs are represented by detailed episode guides, with up to eight photos (screen shots) from each episode. Older shows feature a one-page summary for each program, with production details; some also have a YouTube link to the title sequence. Programs covered are All Saints, Blue Heelers, City Homicide, A Country Practice, Dance Academy, Dead Gorgeous, H20 Just Add Water, Lockie Leonard, Love My Way, McLeod’s Daughters, Offspring, Packed to the Rafters, Rescue: Special Ops, Rush, Satisfaction, Sea Patrol, Stingers, Tangle, Underbelly, Water Rats and Wilfred.

The site also provides continually updated links to online news stories about Australian television.

Televisionau: “The history of Australian television”

http://www.televisionau.com

Another detailed informational website. Original material includes page-long articles on a range of features: individual programs (Home and Away, Neighbours, Number 96), personalities (Bert Newton), and genres (cop shows, “The first 40 years of Oz soaps”, game shows), all illustrated with photos including archive images, old TV Week photos, etc. Of particular interest are the features ‘Classic TV Guides’, which reproduces program listings from the 1950s;  “Headlines from then”, which summarises articles from old copies of TV Week; and “Flashbacks”, which reproduces archival photos with descriptive text. Also notable is a detailed blog (still being updated several times a week as at 24 June 2011), which reproduces TV Week articles from the same date in previous year as well as posting and commenting on news stories about TV.

Individual Programs

Countdown Memories

http://www.countdownmemories.com/

Several private archives of Australian material are organised around single programs and Countdown is a popular program for attention. This website is innovative and beautifully put together (the webmaster has not only interviewed Countdown voiceover guy Gavin Wood, but has got him to record an original intro so that when you click on the site you hear him say, “This is Gavin Wood! Welcome to Countdownmemories.com, celebrating the history of Countdown!”). The site includes lots of primary information about Countdown; aside from Gavin Wood there are interviews with Molly Meldrum, Scott Carne, Kim Wilde, along with several other singers who appeared on the program, and fifteen interviews with fans of the program. It also includes copies of original materials: scanned copies of media stories about Countdown, complete copies of the Countdown magazine, Countdown Annuals and copies of the Countdown club magazine.

Sons and Daughters Website”

http://www.sonsanddaughters.co.uk/

Another archive organised around a single program. It is also interesting for being one of several British archives for an Australian television program (see below), which raises important questions about the porousness of national boundaries and where we draw the line in writing about Australian television history (McKee, 2009). The website includes secondary information such as original plot summaries of all 1972 episodes of the program, many in incredible detail (over 4000 words for some episodes). As well as familiar fan materials such as character bios, and interviews with cast members, the site also reproduces publicity photos, and transcribes media stories about Sons and Daughters. Unusual primary material includes the covers of all Sons and Daughters novelizations, the cover and song list of the Sons and Daughters/A Country Practice cast album All My Friends, copies of the covers of 14 TV Weeks and TV Extras with stars of the series, a download of the theme music, and “A complete guide to all 970 cliffhangers”—the sepia final frozen image from every episode of the program.

Perfect Blend, Neighbours fansite

http://www.perfectblend.net/

Another British fan site, this one for Neighbours. The site includes original interviews, primarily with actors but also, for example, with Ray Kolle, who worked as a Script Editor on the program, discussing the writing process for Scott and Charlene’s wedding. As well as character bios, the site also includes year-by-year story synopses up to 2010, episode summaries (currently ending with episode 5772, September 2009). It also includes copies of newspaper and magazine articles (retyped, not scanned), and a collection of short audio-visual materials which are generically familiar from other private collections—title sequences (every one of the many versions of the title sequence), trailers for the program, censored sequences cut from British broadcasts, and clips of television appearances by the cast on other programs.

Wandin Valley Bush Nursing Hospital

http://www.acountrypractice.com/acp.html

This A Country Practice fan site is another overseas endeavour, this time run by a Canadian fan of the program.  A self-proclaimed “archive” and “museum” for the program, it offers familiar fan materials—character and actor bios and behind the scenes features. Of most interest is the episode guide (in the section called “Pan room”). For early episodes this section links directly to YouTube, allowing researchers to view complete episodes. For some episodes there are detailed descriptions, although for many others the guide provides only the episode number, title and the year of broadcast. Also of interest is the memorabilia section (“Supply room”), which provides information about, and in many cases scans of the covers of, A Country Practice memorabilia (novels, albums, TV Week collector cards, etc).

Production companies

A Tribute to Crawford Productions

http://www.crawfordproductions.net/

It is rare to find collections dedicated to production companies than to programs. This site is “dedicated to the staff and management of the old Crawfords Productions” and it has a nostalgic flavour. It gathers contact details for anybody who worked at Crawfords, and encourages interaction between them. It lists literally hundreds of Crawfords staff members, and includes detailed accounts from many of them, “My time at Crawfords”, and usually in the most positive terms. It also features photos of reunions and parties. The site also includes fascinating primary material such as a small archive of scanned Crawfords paperwork—letters and memos—mostly of a very everyday nature (for example, memos about upcoming staff parties). It also includes complete episode guides for Crawford productions (mostly just with the episode number, title and date); theme music for Crawfords programs; and a trivia quiz about working at Crawfords (“Who was the Neg Matching and Film Library Supervisor?”). The visitors’ book consistently has about one posting a month from people who worked at Crawfords and all talking about it in glowing terms (“Crawfords was by far the best place I’ve ever worked. I have nothing but fantastic memories of our one big happy family”).

ABC TV at Gore Hill in the Fifties

http://www.abctvgorehill.com.au/

This site is dedicated to the ABC production offices at Gore Hill in the 1950s. Like the Tribute to Crawfords, part of its function is to build a community of staff who worked together, and the archival articles encourage other staff to contribute any information or materials they might have. The site features a number of short articles, with screengrabs and clips. Primary materials have a strong presence, with many scans of original paperwork. The section “TV Broadcasting” includes articles on opening night, technology, etc. “Publications” includes ABC Weekly (a short article with scans of covers and articles, and one full issue reproduced as a pdf –18(44), 3 November 1956), Radio Active (with many articles about television reproduced—typed up , not scanned), and ABC Annual reports (excerpts relevant to television reproduced—again, typed up rather than scanned). The site also includes over sixty interviews with ABC Gore Hill staff, across the range of technical, production and on-camera staff (in the section “Contributions”). These include original interviews and reproduced interviews from sites including magazines, radio interviews and NFSA oral histories. The site also includes institutional production details—for example, reproducing pay rates for various jobs—and reproductions of some newspaper and magazine articles about productions and staff at Gore Hill in the 1950s.

Technology

Old TV Gear

http://www.oldtvgear.com/

This website—from the same webmaster as the Australian TV Archive—provides an online archive of television recording equipment. It lists a number of old Australian TV cameras, and each one has a page with both catalogue shots of the camera and studio shots of the camera in use.  This website illustrates another important Pro-Am aspect: “We were chosen to supply vintage tv production equipment for the Network Ten telemovie Hawke which aired in July 2010”. Several of these sites note that the work done by private collectors has contributed to professional film and television practice, providing information or material for DVD releases or new productions.

Conclusion

If, as Moseley and Wheatley claim, archiving practices “affect and produce the kinds of histories that can be written” (Mosely and Wheatley 2008, 153), then it is to be hoped that making visible a new set of Australian television history archives will allow different histories of the medium to be written. Histories of Australian television have tended to focus on institutions, legislation or ‘serious’ genres such as news, current affairs or quality drama (McKee 2001, 1-5). These archives, by contrast, focus on soap operas and music programs, title sequences, station promos and adverts.

Hartley et al note that the various parties involved in writing histories of Australian television—including amateur historians, academics, and the readers of Screening the Past—“have little in common and less mutual contact”. He asks: how the dispersed and idiosyncratically organized resources and spaces of ProAm memorialization might be more productively networked, both within each other and with the cultural institutions whose remit is to remember television for the public (Hartley,Green and Burgess 2008, 241) .

I hope that the publication of this article in Screening the Past will contribute to such a process.

This research was funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Grant.

References

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About the Author


Alan Mckee

Alan McKee is a Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. He leads the Curriculum Development team for the Bachelor of Entertainment Industries. He has researched extensively on the history of entertainment, including television entertainment. His most recent book is The Porn Report (with Catharine Lumby and Kath Albury), Melbourne University Press, 2008.