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Arts & Culture

An Exhibit for Viewers Like You

UMD Libraries Showcases 50 Years of Maryland Public Television

By Liam Farrell

MPT stuff

Photos by Chris Wright

Dave Earnest, a videographer with Maryland Public Television and former UMD student, covers the new exhibit in Hornbake Library’s Maryland Room. It features a collection of memorabilia and video from Maryland’s only statewide broadcaster, including a vintage Varotal broadcast camera (below).

Whether we watched Big Bird on “Sesame Street” or Julia Child roasting a chicken, learned about public affairs or laughed at sketch comedy in Baltimore accents, Maryland Public Television has been a staple of the state’s media world for decades.

A new exhibit in Hornbake Library’s Maryland Room, “Made Possible By Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50,” is celebrating the station’s golden anniversary with a collection of memorabilia and video from Maryland’s only statewide broadcaster.

“There’s nothing that showcases MPT so well as their programs,” said Laura Schnitker, audiovisual archivist and curator of mass media and culture in UMD Special Collections and University Archives.

Old-fashioned video camera that reads "Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting"Clips of programs featured in the exhibit include the sketch comedy show “Crabs,” the original soap opera “Our Street,” and the 1987 film “Freedom Station,” which starred a then-unknown, Baltimore-born Jada Pinkett Smith. MPT’s educational and business offerings (highlighted with a Joan Rivers promo for “Consumer Survival Kit”) were also fixtures of a pre-Google age when news and advice weren’t accessible through a computer or phone.

“Before that, you needed public television,” Schnitker said. “It was a chance to learn something.”

Other objects on display include Emmy statues, a GoPro camera that met its cracked end while filming an edition of “MotorWeek,” and promotional items like a crab mallet and boat clock. There are also samples of the old, clunky analog u-matic tapes that are being digitized through the Maryland Public Television Preservation Fund.

The exhibit is open through July 2020. Find more information on the 50th anniversary here.

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University Libraries

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