Thirteen’s Tape Archive: Saving our Station’s History

The mission of the Thirteen’s Tape Archive is to collect, preserve and make available programs either produced or co-produced by Thirteen/WNET. Our collection of programs spans 1962 to the present, and some of our important holdings include programs produced and distributed by the former entities NET and WNDT, which predate WNET and the creation of PBS.

Thirteen/WNET has a rich media history as the premiere educational television station in the New York City Metropolitan area. On September 16, 1962, New Dimensions in Television (WNDT) went on the air broadcasting on channel 13. Chartered in the states of New York and New Jersey, the very first broadcast was introduced by distinguished television journalist Edward R. Murrow. In 1970, local station WNDT merged with program producer and distributor National Educational Television (NET, PBS’ predecessor) to form WNET-TV, the call letters and station you know today.

Although Thirteen/WNET has been producing materials since 1962, the tape archive was established in its current form in December 1998, when Thirteen moved from its former location on West 58th Street to West 33rd Street. Recently, the Tape Archive has been focusing on seeking funding to remaster older materials from Thirteen’s early history.

Some interesting facts about the Archive and the Collection

  • Opened for business in December 1998
  • Over 27,000 tapes and over 2,300 boxes of elements and paper records are in the collection
  • Contains videotape formats spanning from 2” Quad Videotape to High Definition
  • Contains film formats including 16mm and 35mm
  • Items are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for optimal long-term retention and archival preservation
  • Oldest videotape is a 1970 episode from the WNET series “Soul!”

Did you know…?

  • Videotape has an estimated shelf life of ten to twenty years
  • Preservation and remastering of an individual program from an obsolete format can cost hundreds of dollars
  • A few series that aired on Thirteen from the ’60s and ’70s, including The 51st State, Skyline and The Ragtime Era have been preserved.

Home Video

  • To find out if a program is available for purchase on DVD or VHS, contact the Member Viewer Relations department at 212-560-2888.

Screeners and Licensing

  • To obtain a screener or to license materials from the archive collection, requests must be sent in writing to Thirteen’s Program Rights and Clearance Department. When requesting materials, be as specific as possible. Pertinent information includes the exact title, a detailed description of type of usage being sought, and any relevant deadlines associated with your request. Contact Clips and Licensing at 212-560-8888 for detailed instructions, but due to large volume of requests, phone calls will not be returned.

For more information about the Archive, contact us:

Thirteen Tape Archive
Program Research