A project to digitize 900 "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" episodes dating to 1967, thousands of pages of print material, 35 years worth of viewer mail, and audio recordings of Fred Rogers' music is under way at Saint Vincent College.
Digitization is one way to preserve archival material because it eliminates the need to handle the originals, said Brother David Kelly, archivist for the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media.
The original analog program copies, which are in a variety of formats, are being transferred to streaming video on a dedicated server. There are no plans to transfer the programs to CD or DVD format right now.
Although the bulk of the digitized material will be available primarily for research purposes, Family Communications Inc., the production company founded by the late Mr. Rogers, will receive copies to be used for its own purposes.
Brother David said the center is in the first stages of the project and the first phase, consisting of the digitization of 200 television episodes, is expected to be completed by September.
The "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" shows will be first in the project. Later, video from other programs will be digitized along with the papers, photographs and musical recordings.
Funding for the project totals nearly $370,000 in grants and gifts.
"This is a unique project for us," Brother David said. The college has never before attempted an archival project of this scale. It is a collaboration between the on-campus Fred Rogers Center and Family Communications Inc.
The physical materials making up the Fred Rogers Archive will be housed in the building for the Fred Rogers Center for Early Childhood Learning and Children's Media currently under construction at the college. Completion of the building is expected in September 2008.
A wide range of Fred Rogers' projects and interests will be documented in the archive. Scholars will be able to trace an idea from Fred Rogers' initial concept to a particular television program or a set of programs.
The materials will be available to researchers, educators and media specialists interested in studying the fields of child development, early learning and children's media.
The "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" shows will be first in the project. Later, video from other special programs will also be digitized, as well as the papers, photographs and musical recordings.
Earlier programs that will be digitized in the future include "The Children's Corner," Mr. Rogers' original, mid-1950s programs he produced for the fledgling WQED-TV, the public television station he helped found. He also went to Canada and developed programming for the Canadian Broadcasting Co., which is also scheduled to be digitized. He began producing "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" when he returned to Pittsburgh from Canada.
During his career, Mr. Rogers won two Peabody Awards, four Emmys and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.
Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74.
"We are completing this project the way we think Fred would want it," Brother David said.
Judy Laurinatis can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1228.