Peabody Awards Archive
Wes Unruh - 9/16/2014
The Peabody Awards Collection consists of over 90,000 titles, with radio programs dating from 1940 and television from 1948. The collection includes almost all the entries to the awards competition since its beginning in 1941. It contains local and national American programs and, more currently, international and electronic media programming. The content encompasses news, documentary, entertainment, educational, children’s, and public service programming. There are radio transcription discs, audiotape, audiocassettes, 16mm kinescopes and prints, 2-inch video reels, videocassettes, websites, and objects associated with the collection.
Established in 1940, the George Foster Peabody Awards program is operated by the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications and is considered by many to be the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for recognizing excellence in electronic media. The Peabody Awards Archives, a collection of the University of Georgia Libraries since 1976, reflects the best in the history of electronic media in America. In many cases, the kinescopes, film prints, tapes, or radio transcription discs held by the Library are the sole surviving copies of the work. These are all original archival materials. Reference, or “user” copies, are available for much of the collection for use in the University of Georgia Libraries Media Department or at the Special Collections Library.
One of the unique characteristics of the Archives is that it includes not only nationally broadcast programs, but also locally-produced shows. A 1949 kinescope of Meet the Press sits on a shelf near a 1950 health food infomercial from a small Ohio station. There are works ranging from television’s “Golden Age,” when performances were broadcast live, to stylized, fast-paced music videos. Historians can see and hear national and local broadcasts on events of such magnitude as the Vietnam War, President Kennedy’s assassination, the 1950s Red scare, Watergate, Contragate, the fall of European communism, Hurricane Katrina, and thousands of other topics. Broadcast researchers can trace the development of the situation comedy and other television genres, and watch and hear highlights from the careers of news anchors such as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Howard K. Smith, and others from when they began as young reporters to their days as senior newsmen on the small screen.
A related collection to the Peabody Awards Archives is the Arnold Michaelis Library of Living History. Mr. Michaelis, a past Peabody Award winner for his series Adlai Stevenson Reports, recorded insightful interviews with the major political, social, and cultural figures from the 1950s through the 1980s, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Indira Gandhi, Adlai Stevenson, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Press kits, scripts, and correspondence submitted with the entries are housed in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection continues to grow, as every year’s entries are deposited with the Library after the awards process is completed. Sample stills and items from the collection are shown below.
- See it Now (CBS). Edward R. Murrow (seated left) hosted this news program, broadcast from 1951-1958. Murrow was one of the most important broadcast journalists of his time, and one of the first to make the transition from radio to television. See it Now won Peabody Awards in 1951 and 1957, and Murrow won an individual award in 1953.
- Adlai Stevenson Reports (1961, ABC).With co-host Arnold Michaelis, Stevens, who was then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, interviewed international politicians in a program that won a Peabody for Contribution to International Understanding in 1962.
- Kukla, Fran, and Ollie (1950, NBC).Broadcast from 1948-1957, and later syndicated, this children’s program won a Peabody in 1949. Here, hostess Fran Allison interacts with Burr Tillstrom’s famous puppets, Kukla and Oliver J. Dragon.
- The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS).The host of television’s longest running variety program, Ed Sullivan won Peabody Awards for his show in 1956, 1959 and 1967. An unlikely emcee, the ex-newspaperman is famous for having signed both no-name acts and famous personalities for his shows, and for facilitating television debuts, such as that of The Beatles in 1963. Originally telecast as Toast of the Town, The Ed Sullivan Show became an institution in itself.
- The Ernie Kovacs Specials (1961, ABC).The comedic genius of Kovacs had many manifestations on various network shows that ran sporadically from 1951 to 1962. Comprised of satirical sketches and sight gags, often devoid of dialogue, this episode from the Collection is representative of Kovacs’ unique vision.
- The World of Jacqueline Kennedy (1961, NBC)This documentary is both a biography of the then First Lady and a comparative analysis of her predecessors. Filmed at the height of her popularity prior to the assassination of her husband, this program attests to the public’s fascination with Jackie Kennedy, whose charm and glamour made such an idelible impression. Here, she is photographed at work on her “Campaign Wife” newspaper column in the summer of 1960.
- The Lawrence Welk Show (1968, ABC).Noted for the “champagne music” which he himself dubbed, Lawrence Welk was both bandleader and host of this music variety show that ran from 1955 to 1971.
- The Phil Donahue Show (1971, Ohio : Avco Broadcasting).Focusing on a single topic and eliciting audience involvement, Donahue originated the contemporary talk-show format and won a Peabody for his work in 1980. In this show broadcast from Ohio—before the program was syndicated nationally—the host moderates a discussion on penal reform issues with inmates.
- Wide World of Sports (1973, ABC).This program was first broadcast in 1961, won a Peabody in 1966, and continued its coverage of international sporting events until 1998.
- Saturday Night Live (1977, NBC).This unconventional comedy variety show has filled the late-night spot since it debuted in 1975, and is notable for having launched the careers of several big-name comedians and writers. Featured in this photo are all the original performers, minus Chevy Chase who left the series in 1976.
- Seinfeld (1992, NBC).A Peabody winner in 1992, this situation comedy first aired in 1990 and features standup comic Jerry Seinfeld and his friends, Elaine, George, and the eccentric Kramer, posing here in this photograph.
- Prime Suspect 3 (1994, Granada Television).Broadcast in the U.S. on PBS’s Mystery! series, this British program stars Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, who combats obstacles both within and outside of the police precinct in order to track down a murderer. Notable for its realistic scenarios and dialogue, the show won a Peabody in 1993.
- Coverage of Hurricane Katrina (2005, WLOX-TV).For twelve days during the fiercest Katrina hours and into the aftermath, WLOX transmitted vital information to the South Mississippi region. The station supplied viewers with information regarding shelter, food and medicine by collaborating with local radio and newspaper organizations and even providing its signal to a competing television station for several days.