Yale’s Beinecke Library Digitizing “Sesame Street” Videocassettes

Dedicated to rare books and manuscripts, Yale University’s Beinecke Library also houses a massive collection of videocassettes and is currently in the process of digitizing the tapes to preserve them and make them accessible online. Library preservationists are currently working with decades-old recordings of “Sesame Street” from the archives of screenwriter and song writer Tony Geiss (1924-2011).

AnAmericanTailPoster.jpgGeiss spent a lifetime creating programming for children. He co-wrote the animated feature films “An American Tail” and “The Land Before Time” and spent almost 40 years writing for public television’s “Sesame Street,” where he created characters like the Muppet Monsters, Abby Cadabby, and the Honkers. Geiss’ work earned him 22 Emmys, and the adoration of children worldwide. 

Digitizing videocassettes has become a priority for the University, which has nearly 2,000 cassettes in various formats, including VHS, U-matic, Betacam, and 8mm. Cassettes degrade over time, according to Frank Clifford, the library’s video digitization project manager, “It’s a matter of time before a lot of these tapes are not going to be playable at all,” he said in a press release. Another challenge is maintaining the equipment necessary to play these tapes, which also break down. One digitized, the material will be easier to maintain, even if the videos are no longer accessible in their original form.

Since starting the digitization process in January, Clifford has digitized over 600 tapes. Of the archives containing videocassettes, Geiss’ is one of the largest, followed closely by poet Ira Cohen’s papers and the archive of Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky. 

Image: “An AmericanTail” Poster via Wikipedia.
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