Finding Aid for the Archive of American Television
Title: Archive of American Television
Creator: The Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television
Date Range: 1996-2016
Extent: 842 interviews (557 standard definition, 284 high definition); approximately 3,700 hours of video footage; 88 TB of data
Language: The material is in English.
Repository Code: CaNhAAT
Archive of American Television
The Television Academy Foundation
5220 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Abstract: Founded in 1997, with its first interviews recorded in 1996, the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television consists of over 800 videotaped oral history interviews with the legends of television, including Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Walter Cronkite, Norman Lear, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, and many others. Interviewees hail from professions across the television industry, from actors and writers to executives, editors, publicists, composers, and more. Major topics discussed in interviews include Advice to Aspiring Professionals, TV’s Golden Age, Censorship, and Technological Innovation, as well as important events in American and television history, such as the Hollywood Blacklist, the Quiz Show Scandals, 9/11, and the Kennedy Assassination. The Archive conducts up to twenty-five new interviews each year. The vast majority of the collection is available to the public through the Archive’s website (full versions) and YouTube (shorter clips).
Controlled Access Terms:
Burrows, James, 1940-
Caesar, Sid, 1922-2014
Eisner, Michael, 1942-
Farnsworth, Philo Taylor, 1906-1971
Fox, Michael J., 1961-
Goldenson, Leonard H.
Hamm, Jon, 1971-
Howard, Ron, 1954-
Jones, Quincy, 1933-
Leonard, Sheldon, 1907-1997
Moore, Mary Tyler, 1936-
Smith, Dick, 1922-2014
Van Dyke, Dick
Wayans, Keenen Ivory
White, Betty, 1922-
Wolper, David L.
ABC Television Network
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation
Archive of American Television
CBS Television Network
Du Mont Broadcasting Corporation
NBC Television Network
African Americans in television broadcasting
African Americans on television
Biographical television programs
Civil rights movement
Detective and mystery television programs
Historical television programs
History on television
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963—Assassination
Morning news talk shows
New York World’s Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.)
Producers and directors
Reality television programs
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
Situation comedies (Television programs)
Television actors and actresses
Television and culture
Television and history
Television and politics
Television in politics
Television and popular culture
Television—Production and direction
Television quiz shows
Television soap operas
Television talk show hosts
Television talk shows
Variety shows (Television programs)
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Voice actors and actresses
Western television programs
World series (Baseball)
Accruals: The Archive conducts up to twenty-five new interviews each year, which are then digitized, cataloged, and made available to the public through the Archive’s website.
Administrative History: The Television Academy Foundation was founded in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy with the goal of shaping the art of creating television by engaging and educating the next generation of television professionals. Today, the Foundation pursues this goal through scholarships, internships, career development programs, outreach to university faculty, and the in-depth oral history of television housed in its Archive of American Television.
The Archive of American Television was first conceived of by television executive Dean Valentine in 1996. Inspired by Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, which documents stories of the Holocaust through oral history interviews, Valentine set out to establish a similar project for television. Mr. Valentine was soon joined by Thomas W. Sarnoff, Chairman of the Television Academy Foundation for 17 years, Producer David Wolper and Executive Grant Tinker. The result was the Archive of American Television, established under the aegis of the Television Academy Foundation with the mission to preserve, celebrate, and share the history of the Television industry. The first interviews conducted for the Archive were with Leonard H. Goldenson (Founder of ABC Television), Dick Smith (television’s first makeup artist), Milton Berle (comedian and performer known as “Mr Television”), Elma Farnsworth (widow of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of electronic television), Sheldon Leonard (Producer), and Ethel Winant (casting director). Since then, the Archive has recorded over 800 interviews, and, since 2008, has made its interviews freely available to the public through its website.
Conditions Governing Access: The vast majority of the Archive of American Television’s interviews have been digitized and are freely available to the public for viewing through the Archive’s website (full) and on YouTube (shorter clips).
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: The Archive’s footage is available to all film, television, broadband and documentary producers, and has been digitized for easy access and delivery. Licensing fees apply, but vary depending on the usage rights and territory required. Transcripts for research purposes only are available for a fee.
Copyright Status: The Archive of American Television owns copyright on all of its interviews, with the exception of special cases where the copyright or permission to rebroadcast must be obtained from the interviewee or their estate. The Archive may then make this request on the researcher’s behalf.
Preferred Citation: Quoting from the interviews is allowed, but please contact the Archive for exact phrasing and credit.
Scope and Content: The Archive of American Television contains over 800 videotaped oral history interviews with television industry professionals, chronicling the birth and growth of television from its earliest days in the Farnsworth labs to current stars and visionaries. The first interviews were taped in 1996, and since then up to twenty-five new interviews have been recorded each year. The interviews are available online.
Interviewees are professionals who work in front of the camera, including actors, comedians, hosts, journalists, meteorologists, and news anchors, as well as behind-the-scenes professionals, including agents, animators, directors, editors, executives, makeup artists, producers, puppeteers, writers, and more. Just a few of the notable names in the collection are: Milton Berle, James Burrows, Carol Burnett, Sid Caesar, Walter Cronkite, Michael Eisner, Michael J. Fox, Jon Hamm, Ron Howard, Quincy Jones, Norman Lear, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Keenen Ivory Wayans, and Betty White.
Each interview follows a life-history format, starting with the interviewee’s childhood and early influences, then moving on to major television work and concluding with advice to aspiring professionals. The interviews range in length from one-hour to up to eight-hours and touch on a multitude of topics, many of historical significance, including the Quiz Show Scandals, the Hollywood Blacklist, the Kennedy Assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, and 9/11. The range of time periods discussed by interviewees stretch from the time of television’s invention in the 1920s to the present day. The Archive contains transcripts of each interview.
The Archive also contains two additional oral history collections: The Living Television Collection and the Jeff Kisseloff Audio Interview Collection. Living Television was a special initiative of the Archive of American Television, which collaborated with broadcast organizations, colleges, and universities across the country to videotape in-depth interviews of local television pioneers. The Living Television Collection is partially digitized, and a few of the interviews have been absorbed into the Archive of American Television. Journalist Jeff Kisseloff conducted over 300 interviews with people involved in all aspects of early television as research for his book, The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1929-1961. These audio taped interviews are housed in the Archive of American Television’s collection and are not digitized.
The Archive of American Television does not contain episodes of television shows or television ephemera.
Related Archival Collections:
The Academy Oral History Projects
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oral History Collections
Margaret Herrick Library
Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study
333 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
The American Comedy Archives at Emerson College
120 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116
Directors Guild of America Visual History Program
7920 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90046
UCLA Film and Television Archive
Archive Research and Study Center
Powell Library (Room 46)
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1517
The Writer Speaks: Oral Histories of Film and Television Writers
Writers Guild Foundation
7000 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
The Archive’s website is searchable by keyword, phrase, post type, and category (genre, television show, topic, personal name, profession). Each interview that is available on the website has been cataloged and time-stamped, allowing users to access specific sections of interviews without scrolling through hours of tape. Additionally, the interviews are indexed within the following categories, providing multiple time-based access points:
Creative Influences and Inspiration
Historic Events and Social Change
1939-40 World’s Fair
Civil Rights Movement (c. 1960s)
Diversity in Television
People with Disabilities
Fall of the Berlin Wall
Health and Medicine
Iran Hostage Crisis
JFK Assassination and Funeral
Queen Elizabeth Coronation
War on Terror
World War II
Memorable Moments on Television
Pivotal Career Moments
Celebrities in the News
Characters & Catchphrases
Classic TV Series Episodes
Fame and Celebrity
Rock’n’Roll on TV (1950s & ‘60s)
TV Theme Songs
TV’s Golden Age (1940s & ‘50s)
Advertising and Sponsorship
Censorship/Standards & Practices
Criticism of TV
‘The Idiot Box’
Sex & Violence
Fame & Celebrity
Hollywood Blacklist (ca. 1950s)
Quiz Show Scandals
Television and the Presidency
Film & Video Post-Production Professionals
Film & Video Production Professionals
Journalist & News Producers
Writers & Show Creators
Classic Anthology Series
Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials
News and Documentary
TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials