Exploring Public Media in the Peabody Awards Collection
The Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Brown Media Archives’ Peabody Awards Collection contains more than 85,000 sound and moving image recordings dating from 1940 to 2020, with more than 1,000 titles added annually at the conclusion of the awards season. The Collection includes regional, national, and international content in a variety of genres. Local commercial or educational stations submitted approximately 37% of the programs in the Peabody Awards Collection.9 Public radio and television stations and producers nominated more than 14,000 of these titles.
Each year, the Peabody Awards Office announces a call for entries. Stations, networks, and production companies select and submit what they believe to be their finest work of the preceding year. At a minimum, each Peabody entry was to contain a recording of the submitted program and a completed entry form, though this was not always the case; some early entries relied on print materials alone and did not include recordings of submitted programs.
In addition to the entry form and the recorded media itself, most submissions include documentation such as press releases, clippings, scripts, audience feedback, and ephemera. In 1941, Dean Drewry, in a reply to a station that wanted its submitted materials back, expressed a need for UGA to archive the materials: “We have a feeling that in years to come [the recordings] will undoubtedly have historical significance and should, therefore, be in the file of Peabody entries." Although some recordings were returned to the stations, Peabody did retain most submitted entries.
The research value of the Peabody Awards Collection is amplified by the availability of accompanying print documentation and artifacts in the George Foster Peabody Awards records. In addition to containing production credits and broadcast information, entry forms provide descriptions of the submitted content. These descriptions often contain additional information, such as the station's rationale for creating the program or evidence of the program's impact. Beyond the entry forms, press clippings and correspondence from listeners and viewers provide context and reveal ways that local critics and audiences have judged the broadcasts.
For the first three and a half decades of the Awards program, materials were stored in the facilities of the Grady School of Journalism. During this period, Journalism faculty freely utilized the collection for their teaching and research. In the 1970s, the collection was transferred to the University of Georgia Libraries.
Each year, after the awards have been presented, the Peabody Awards Office transfers all submitted materials to the Libraries: print materials to the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library's George Foster Peabody Awards Records collection; and media recordings to the Peabody Awards Collection in Brown Media Archives. While the content of the Peabody Awards Collection is limited to materials submitted for Awards consideration or created at the University as part of the Awards process, Hargrett Library and Brown Media also collect other materials related to the Peabody Awards. For example, the Hargrett Library is home to the Drewry papers and Brown Media holds collections from Peabody Award winners including Arnold Michaelis, Jon Stewart, and Alton Brown.
The organization of the Peabody Awards materials follows patterns set when the Peabody Awards Office received and processed entries for judging. Media is categorized first by year, then by format (Television/Visual, Radio/Audio, and Web/Interactive), and finally by category (Children's, Entertainment, News, etc.). Entry numbers assigned by the Peabody Awards Office continue to be used in both print and media collections. In 1995, with the establishment of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection, preservation and description of the Peabody Awards Collection began in earnest.
The first Peabody entries were submitted on transcription discs. Early recordings of radio broadcasts were sent on acetate, lacquer, or glass discs; later radio entries on quarter-inch audio tape, audiocassettes, and compact discs. The first television entries, including many kinescopes, came to the Peabody Awards on 16mm film. By the late 1960s, television entries were submitted on videotape, on two-inch quad at first, then on ¾-inch U-matic, Betacam, Betacam-SP, and VHS. Later formats included HDCam, DVCam, DVC-Pro, XD-Cam, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Beginning with the 2013 entries, the Peabody Awards Office changed its guidelines to request digital files instead of analog copies. As with analog submissions, when judging is complete, the digital files are transferred to the Libraries.
In the 1970s, the Peabody Awards Office began creating access copies for use in judging. These were later transferred to the Libraries along with the archival originals. In the 1990s, the Peabody Awards Office began to require that entrants send both broadcast-quality and access copies. The analog viewing and listening copies of Peabody Awards entries are available to researchers through the Libraries Media Department, but access to these is limited to the University of Georgia Campus. The Libraries has analog viewing copies of more than 36,000 television entries and analog listening copies of more than 15,000 radio entries.
The Peabody Awards Collection database provides information taken from Peabody Awards entry forms. For submissions from 1940-1974, the database contains records of every entry for which the archives has a copy. For entries from 1975 to the present, the database contains a record of the submission, whether the archives has a copy or not. Currently, there are more than 75,000 entries in the database.
The amount of information in a given record varies. Prior to 1976, entry forms did not ask for credit information. Beginning with the year 2000 entries, the Peabody Awards Office switched from paper entry forms to an online interface. Entry form data was automatically ingested into the Peabody Awards database each year, making records for these submissions particularly information rich. This changed in 2014 with the move to a third-party vendor, but electronic submission data is still added to the database.
The print materials and artifacts in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library's George Foster Peabody Awards Records are described at the folder or item level in the Hargrett Finding Aids Database. The most efficient way to find these materials is to search by manuscript number, MS3000*.
To search the Peabody Awards Collection at UGA, researchers can visit https://bmac.libs.uga.edu/pawtucket2/index.php/Peabody/Index.