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UCLA IS: Corday Productions' Gift of Vintage Video Equipment to Enhance Hands-On Learning

By Joanie Harmon
The UCLA IS Lab provides student access to equipment needed to learn preservation and archival skills.

UCLA's Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage offers students the skills needed to enter the preservation field.

The UCLA School of Education and Information Studies has been gifted a vintage open-reel videotape machine by Corday Productions, a Burbank production company best-known for producing NBC’s longest running drama series, “Days of our Lives,” since 1965. The equipment will be used in the Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage, which is housed in the UCLA Department of Information Studies.

“Our commitment to education runs deep at Corday Productions, and we are honored to present this piece of television history to UCLA’s Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage,” said Ken Corday, executive producer. “We hope that in-person access to the vintage open-reel videotape machine provides tangible, hands-on learning for students for years to come.” 

“It was a privilege to help to coordinate this donation to UCLA,” said Maya Frangié, ('10, B.A., Philosophy/Global Studies), director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives at Corday Productions. “As a proud Bruin, I’m delighted to know that a piece of our show’s history will play a vital role in keeping critical media archives accessible to future generations of students.”

Shawn VanCour, UCLA assistant professor of information studies and director of the Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage, says that the Corday gift will help to train students in the department’s Master of Library and Information Science program with the skills needed to preserve historical video content.

“Working machines like this - especially one with such an interesting history - are extremely rare and expensive,” says VanCour. “Before video cassettes were manufactured, video tape was made on open reels that would be put on large, floor-standing playback units that looked a bit like giant reel-to-reel audio decks or old tape-based mainframe computers.

“This deck was used up until the early 2000s to retrieve content from the show's earliest episodes for flashback sequences, but since then they've digitized all of that material and have no further need for this old playback machine. They were looking for a good home for it, and students in our media archival studies program will benefit greatly from this gift.”

The open-reel deck is the latest installment in the Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage, a teaching space housed in the Information Studies Lab equipped with a full suite of professional film, video, and audio preservation equipment. 

“Our MLIS program at UCLA is one of only two American Library Association-accredited programs in the United States that offers a specialization in media archiving, and we have one of the few university teaching spaces with the equipment needed to train students in preserving these kinds of historical film and video materials,” notes Professor VanCour. “Commercial studios like Corday have shown a strong interest in what we're doing, since the skills we're teaching our students are highly specialized and in growing demand in the entertainment industries.”

In addition to careers in commercial industries, VanCour says that UCLA’s program maintains a strong community service commitment, and many of its graduates work closely with or for smaller community-based archives. As part of their training in the IS Department’s new preservation space, students will use equipment such as Corday’s video deck to help local organizations digitize content on obsolete media formats that would be otherwise inaccessible to their users. 

“Through generous gifts like Corday’s we are training students in the skills needed to ensure our historical media content remains accessible to future generations, to the benefit of our local community and commercial content creators alike, says Professor VanCour. "It’s a win-win, and we couldn’t be happier to have this machine at our facility on the UCLA campus.”

Above: A vintage one-inch open reel videotape machine (grey unit at far right) was gifted to the UCLA Center for Preservation of Audiovisual Heritage by Corday Productions. The Burbank-based studio has produced “Days of Our Lives,” the longest running daytime drama on NBC, since 1965.

Photo by Shawn VanCour