Reconstructing Contexts through Local TV News Project

By Sadie Roosa

Having just moved to Boston at the beginning of this summer, working on the Local News Project has been a mini course in local history. The best part about it is that it’s a sort of living history because I don’t just read about events that happened a long time ago, I read about reports that were filmed and aired as these things were happening. I can’t wait until we begin digitizing some of them to put online.

A story I am really interested in, which I had never read about, is the Women’s Lib takeover of a Harvard University building. This is an important piece of both local and women’s studies history, which I am sure many people more familiar with these fields are familiar with. And maybe I would have come across this information in my reading at some other point. But there is something wonderful about learning about this event in as close to its original context as I’m going to get. When I read about this story it was not in a women’s studies textbook, where it would be considered a stepping stone in a larger movement. Nor was it on a tour of Harvard’s campus, where it would be presented as one of many historic events to take place in the area. Instead I learned about this exciting happening as one of thousands of news stories taking place in a short number of years.

When you experience history as it happens you don’t see it as part of the larger arc of a movement, but rather as one exciting thing, which may or may not relate to other exciting things. When you experience history this way, you don’t know just based on the fact that its being reported in a textbook that it is extremely significant. You don’t even know how the whole thing is going to turn out. That’s the way we, working on this project, are experiencing this period of Boston history. And as someone who is not particularly familiar with the area or local history, I really feel like I’m absorbing these stories the way people watching them be originally broadcast did.

If you're interested in reading more about the Women's Lib takeover, check out these sources: