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All About the Archives: LTV Is a Treasure Trove of History




Is it possible to dig for buried treasure in East Hampton? It is, if you’re digging through the LTV Archives. You’re bound to unearth gold among the nearly 25,000 shows and clips that document East Hampton Town and East End life over the last 40 years.

In between government meetings, interviews, and historical lectures are parades, art shows, and high school basketball games. Chats with baymen and fishermen about things like haul seining and trap-fishing. Quirky bits and pieces of Bonac history.

“It’s an interesting collection of what this town has been about since 1980,” says Genie Henderson, an author who is the longtime archivist at LTV. “It was kind of the beginning of the end of the old fishing, farming community. All the changes that have come over East Hampton have seemed to come in the last 35 to 40 years. This Archive reflects this entire time.”

Ms. Henderson compares the treasure trove to a time capsule.

“One of the things I find most interesting is the fact that everything is there,” she says. “If you could imagine a time capsule and somebody 500 years from now coming onto this thing, they would have an entire town for 40 years.”

Willem de Kooning is in there. So is Peter Mathiesson.

“There are some very valuable things in it because LTV was started by artistic people,” Ms. Henderson says. “There are a lot of the artists from that early golden age, certainly writers, a lot of big names in there. Take somebody like Mathiesson — he’s interviewed, but what we've also got is more off-the-cuff things. Cocktail parties and benefits and impromptu talks at Elaine Benson’s. It’s cozier than what you can find out there. There is an official documentary on de Kooning that someone else did, but we’ve got sort of funny little things of him in the studio, demonstrating things, sitting with his cat, rocking in his rocking chair. Priceless things.”

Much of the LTV Archives is unedited. One of Ms. Henderson’s goals is to find enough resources to get that accomplished, as well as digitizing all of the material.

That’s where NYU Tisch and the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation come in. The foundation has supported NYU’s Regional Media Legacies (RML) partnership program, in which archival fellows from Tisch will work with LTV to assess and preserve what’s there, and create a viable long-term system for the care and continuation of the Archive moving forward.

The LTV Media Center Archive’s mission has been to offer the public an outlet to broadcast the activities of their communities for over thirty-five years,” NYU Tisch says on its website. “In that time, LTV has amassed thousands of hours of regional content that is in need of preservation. RML has partnered with LTV to assist them in ensuring that their audiovisual assets will be taken care of properly into the future.”

The LTV Archive is a rare find on Long Island, where regional and national cable and media dominate the commercial airwaves.

I don’t think anyone has quite the collection we do,” Ms. Henderson says.

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