C-SPAN Gifts Records, Historical Archive to University Libraries

Posted: November 26, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: November 27, 2013 at 6:49 am

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By Mark Schwartz, communications and marketing officer, University Libraries

C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb. Creative Services photo

C-SPAN executive chairman Brian Lamb visited Fenwick Library. Creative Services photo

C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) has gifted its organizational records and historical archive to the George Mason University Libraries. C-SPAN has also committed funding for a two-year project relating to the materials, which will encompass processing, physical and intellectual organization, selective digitization and construction of a scholarly research portal.

The C-SPAN collection comprises historically significant, unique and unpublished materials including both physical and digital records. Other materials include outreach and educational files, photographs, clippings and memorabilia. The libraries’ scholarly research portal will provide links to C-SPAN’s video library — its archive of televised programs — thus establishing connections between C-SPAN’s history and its public programming.

“Archiving the organizational records with the University Libraries deepens the relationship our university has already established with C-SPAN, to the substantial benefit of students and researchers at George Mason and across the globe,” says Mason President Ángel Cabrera.

Created in 1979 as a public service, C-SPAN remains a nonprofit providing access not only to the nation’s political process, but also to the country’s broader cultural discourse. Today, the C-SPAN network of three cable television channels and C-SPAN Radio average 8,000 hours of original programming each year.

“Because of the premier national stature of C-SPAN as a public affairs television network, it is of vital importance to organize, preserve and make accessible its extant corpus of organizational records and related historical materials, from the time of its founding to the present,” says John Zenelis, university librarian.

“This is an important step because it creates a lasting and publicly accessible repository for C-SPAN’s corporate history,” says C-SPAN executive chairman Brian Lamb. “We have a great deal of confidence in John Zenelis and his associates to handle our archival material with great care and retain its integrity.”

Faculty, students and staff in the academic fields of communication, history, film and media studies, political science, and public and international affairs will be most interested in access to the C-SPAN materials. However, because of the collection’s breadth and depth, the potential for multidisciplinary scholarly research in the C-SPAN historical archives is equally great.

Zenelis adds, “We are acutely aware of the importance of C-SPAN and its innovative public affairs programming for scholarly opportunities and research possibilities. Such primary resources are not only essential for Mason but extend across all of higher education.”

This organizational archives project of C-SPAN is the latest chapter in a longstanding relationship the university has had with C-SPAN:

  • Since 1981, Mason’s Capitol Connection wireless cable TV service has carried each of the three C-SPAN channels as they were launched to government, news and business offices throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. A telecommunications service of the George Mason University Instructional Foundation, The Capitol Connection supports the educational and community outreach of the university.
  • C-SPAN and Mason had partnered for many years on a multicampus, credited distance learning class for students at Mason and at University of Denver and Pace University to interact with high-level guests from the political and media world at the C-SPAN’s Washington studios.

As an integral and prominent part of the National Capital region, Mason is ideally situated to optimize the usefulness of the C-SPAN organizational records and archive to the academic research communities as well as the broader professional sphere. Because of the geographic proximity, the C-SPAN material would be within easy reach of the home organization itself.

Given C-SPAN’s early and continuing association with George Mason University, it is fitting for its organizational materials to be deposited at Mason permanently,  Zenelis concludes. “Over the last three decades, C-SPAN has emerged as a major national media organization elevating public discourse; similarly, Mason, over the last four decades, has become a major university of ever-growing reputation.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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