PAPER TRAILS: TV archive digitized to look back

A CLASSIC COLLECTION It's 1974 and religious groups have gathered outside The Center movie theater in downtown Little Rock. They are clapping and singing hymns -- one woman plays an accordion -- in peaceful but spirited protest of the theater's showing of "The Exorcist."

We know this because video of the event was shared last week on the Twitter account of the University of Arkansas' David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. The footage is just 55 seconds from the KATV Collection, which includes more than 26,000 hours of raw news footage on film and videotape that was donated to the center in 2009 by Little Rock television station KATV.

After a $1.5 million donation from Tyson Foods Inc., The Tyson Family Foundation and Barbara Tyson, the archive is being preserved and digitized, and can be accessed at

Limited video digitization and posting began in 2012, and full digitization and regular postings began in 2018, according to Randy Dixon, the center's director of news archives and media.

The center has partnered with Pennsylvania-based The Media Preserve to conserve the footage and convert it to digital.

"We've done about 50% of the collection," says Dixon, who worked at KATV for 31 years.

The earliest report available is from 1933; the most recent is from 1980.

Picking through these easily searchable digital catacombs is not a bad way to spend a wintry day or evening. Razorbacks footage, politicians, the state fair, Vietnam -- they're all here, as are a cavalcade of men with curious sideburns, wacky '60s and '70s fashions, and oddball items like the couple who got married atop a telephone pole in November 1975.

Among the most popular clips, Dixon says, are of Earl Bell, the Arkansas State University pole vaulter and 1976 world's outdoor record holder, and of Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood in Fordyce, where they were detained after being stopped by police on July 5, 1975.

CHECK THIS OUT The Fayetteville Public Library was mentioned in a Jan. 1 Washington Post editorial. It was noted for its "'art and movement' room, an event center and a teaching kitchen, among other amenities" under the headline "The golden age of public libraries dawns again." Among the other libraries mentioned were the "Wormhole Library" in Haikou, China, and the Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo.

Library executive director David Johnson was pleased and said so in an email last week.

"I am proud of this staff, our library and this community for how we've worked together to elevate library services beyond the traditional model, and we're happy to be a role model for how public libraries can support their communities."