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En Francais, Pour Toujours

Louisiana Public Broadcasting's francophone archives get preservation help

En Francais, Pour Toujours

Louisiana Public Broadcasting

During the 1980s, Louisiana Public Broadcasting produced and transmitted what is believed to be the only program in French ever produced by an American public broadcasting network. Over its long run, En Français presented countless aspects of Francophone life and culture in Louisiana. Literally countless—the archival tapes had not been fully indexed or labeled, so while workers at LPB knew they had a treasure trove, they didn’t completely know what was in it. Time was of the essence: the film stock used to record video in the 70s and 80s is reaching the end if its usable life, and whatever exists in this media needs to be transferred to more durable digital formats in order to be preserved long term. (Plus, fewer and fewer machines exist that can play such tapes, and the VCR is unlikely ever to mount a comeback.)

Help is on the way. LPB recently received a national Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded program supporting preservation of important audio and audiovisual content. With those funds, LPB has been able to transfer, restore, and digitize 223 episodes from the first six years of the series and make them available for the public to view and use. The episodes preserved so far contain the preservation of the Cajun French dialect, Acadian history and cultural traditions, life in Acadiana, the enduring connection between Louisiana and the Francophone world, songs by the pioneers of Cajun music, and performances by Theatre ‘Cadien, a local theater group that performed original plays in Cajun French. (Indexing work continues, so more cultural finds are sure to arise.) The restored En Français episodes preserved through this project will be made freely available for streaming through LPB’s Louisiana Digital Media Archive and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, where it is currently featured as a special collection.

For more information on how to support these activities and save our state’s film and video heritage, contact LPB Deputy Director, Christina Melton at cmelton@lpb.org.