Through images and video, this digital collection sheds light on the groundbreaking creation and dedicated running of the first public television station in the country. Hundreds of black and white photographs illustrate the work that went on both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes at KUHT-TV, while approximately 35 films provide a rich sample of the station’s diverse offerings. In all, the collection contains 336 items.
Most of the photographs date from the station’s early days in the 1950s, but later decades are also represented. The snapshots capture production staff, cameramen, set designers, and engineers, as well as on-air personalities and sets from Channel 8 News and other shows. Items of note include photos of the figures who were instrumental in getting KUHT up and running, such as University President Dr. Walter W. Kemmerer, faculty member and choral director Dr. John Schwarzwalder, and producer/director George Arms. The collection also includes images of celebrities appearing on PBS programs through the years: Mister Rogers, Julia Child, Phyllis Diller, Dustin Hoffman – and even Sesame Street’s Big Bird.
The films in this collection explore a wide array of topics of both local and national interest, including the evolution of African-American music; the blowout of an offshore oil well in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979; the controversy surrounding the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1977; integration in two area school districts in the 1960s; and documentaries on boxer Jack Johnson and Tejano music legend Lydia Mendoza. Of particular note is a series of programs from the 1960s called “Education for Survival – Civil Defense,” which covers Cold War-era subjects such as “Weapons in the Nuclear Age,” “Propaganda and You,” and “Radiation and Effects.” Another highlight is a press conference held by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House in 1960. Available for viewing in their entirety, the broadcasts generally run about 30-60 minutes each.
Located on the University of Houston campus, KUHT-TV was America's first public television station when it debuted in 1953, and became one of the founding stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1969. Today, KUHT-TV/HoustonPBS continues to produce innovative programming while serving not only the students and faculty at UH, but the greater Houston community as a whole.