An Afternoon with the Media at the Paley Center

Mar 15, 2009 by Lisa Newton

As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m not a “greenhorn” to Southern California nor am I a native, so I was very excited when a friend of mine suggested that we visit The Museum of Television & Radio (MTR) in Beverly Hills. Its architect, Richard Meir, created a building that lives and breathes on one of the busiest streets in Beverly Hills, yet its beauty, and elegance is inherently mesmerizing, in more ways than one. Richard Meier, just happens to be the architect for the world renowned Getty Museum, also located here in Los Angeles.

Before I proceed any further into my photographic and written foray of this magnificent place, the first matter at hand is to give notice to everybody that the name of The Museum of Television & Radio was changed to The Paley Center for Media in 2007.

Simply put— The Paley Center for Media is probably one of the most advanced media centers, educational resources, current events, associated galleries, topical films, archives of television and radio programs, and cataloguer of over 100 years of media and society.

William Paley, was the founder of what became CBS and by the time he died in 1990 at the age of 89, he had remained at or near its helm for more than 60 years. He pioneered many of the practices that gave first radio and then television network broadcasting their distinctive shape and extraordinary reach.

CBS’s success was due to the quality of its programming which Paley was the innovator and advocate and his great passion was for what went over the air, which is at the heart of what the Paley Center is all about. By the way, they have 2 locations—one in Beverly Hills and the other in New York City.

At the heart of the Paley Center is an international collection of more than 140,000 programs covering almost 100 years of television and radio history, including news, public affairs programs and documentaries, performing arts programs, children’s programming, sports, comedy and variety shows, and commercial advertising. Programming from over seventy countries is represented in the collection. "Lost" radio and television programs recovered by The Paley Center for Media that are preserved in the collection include Super Bowl III, a Rat Pack benefit variety show, and James Dean performances.

All you have to do is:

1. Go to the Museum

2. Climb the stairs to their computer room where dozens of computers are loaded with their extensive database.

3. Put in your search words.

4. Choose 2 titles. (Yes, each time you choose, you’re limited to only two titles. Go figure!)

5. Take your choices to the librarian.

6. Wait a few minutes, get your data disc, and watch your choices. Each component of the search is also indexed for further exploration, and research. For example if during a search the producer or actor of a particular show was listed, you are able to find all relevant archived information that the Paley Center has for that as well.

It’s that simple. I researched their database for old shows and discovered that they had archived past television shows like Laugh-in, Get Smart, and Grammar Rock were all included. On a more serious side, I typed in JFK, and a broadcast originally shown on November 23rd, 1961, featured many top political and social icons of that time, whom were interviewed right before Kennedy’s funeral.

An important aspect of the Paley Center is that it offers both a specific area of its vast catalogued archives for academics and for educational purposes. They have separate wired rooms especially dedicated for those interested in writing, teaching, and exploring past historical events that were recorded on television, cinema, and radio. You can view some of their perspectives on Media and videos from their Screening Room on the Internet.

In its John H. Mitchell Theatre, they have an ever changing line-up of old and rare features, which their curators have assembled. The day I was there they were featuring old clips of the controversial comedian in the show entitled Two Five-Letter Words: Lenny Bruce; The entire premier of the original 1955 Lawrence Welk Show—including highlights of the musical/variety programs of the bandleader and his “Champagne Orchestra” in honor of Lawrence Welk’s 106th Birthday; and a compilation of Superheroes on TV featuring Batman: ‘The Greatest Mother of them All’ starring Shelley Winters, from the 1966 show; and Danny Phantom: “Fanning the Flames” “Teacher of the Year” which features two 2004 episodes where the protagonist is a mild mannered Freshman at Casper High by day, superpower ghost vigilante by night, who confronts a power-mad girl rocker and a Tech-Ghost bent on taking over the Internet.

If all of that wasn’t interesting enough, in the Paley Center’s Ahmanson Radio Listening Room, they featured these programs all day:

- A Toast to Dean Martin

- Black Radio: Telling Like It Was

- Lucille Ball: The Redhead on Radio

- The Radio Interview: The Beatles

- A Salute to Sondheim

If you plan on visiting LA or better yet, if you live here, the The Paley Center for Media is a great way to spend an afternoon, or a series of afternoons.

Do you have a favorite TV program that you’d like to see again? Or historic events that were captured and recorded on the media?

By visiting Travelin’ Local, you can make rediscover history, live it, or view it.

Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live as if you’ll die today.  ~ James Dean

Carpe Diem! It’s up to you to seize the day………………….:)

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4 Responses to “An Afternoon with the Media at the Paley Center”

  1. Lance says:

    Hi Lisa,
    This sounds like quite a place to visit! And what a huge collection to search through – some interesting finds in there, I’m sure!

    Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

    [Reply]

  2. LisaNewton says:

    @ Lance Lots of great stuff. I hope your Sunday was great…………..:)

    [Reply]

  3. Independence Day, Paramount Studios, and a Contest | Travelin' Local says:

    [...] An Afternoon with the Media at the Paley Center [...]

  4. David says:

    Lisa, this is an amazing find. I’ve spent literally hours perusing what they have on the WWW–I can only imagine what they have @ the museum.

    [Reply]

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