An Unknown Pioneer Takes Her Place in the Broadcast Archives

Mary Kelly, Today Show 1952Mary Ellen Agnes Kelly (1926-2005?) was an American television researcher, talent coordinator, and associate producer with the pioneering early morning television program Today on NBC. She was also a special assignments reporter, traveling far and wide to film feature segments. Kelly crisscrossed the United States many times and covered stories from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Newspaper articles from the period compared her to Nellie Bly, the intrepid 19th-century reporter known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days. Kelly traveled around the world – on the first commercial flight over the North Pole in 1957 – in 71 hours and six minutes. Unfortunately, her remarkable career is little known today.

A remarkable collection of photographs and clippings from her career are now part of Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture. The journey of these materials to our collections is typical in how it was nearly discarded but later adopted by an appreciative collector. In the 1960s, Kelly sublet her New York City apartment to a man who subsequently discovered several boxes she left behind. He contacted her to offer to return the boxes, but she declined. However, he thought that the contents were fascinating and kept the boxes for over 50 years. When he passed away, his widow – realizing that Kelly must have been important as one of the few women working in early television – donated the material to the UMD libraries.

Early Career

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Radio Preservation Task Force Conference Coming to Hornbake Library

On February 26 and 27, the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force will host its first conference on the subjects of historical media archives, and the organization of educational and preservation initiatives on a national scale . Friday’s activities will take place downtown at the Library of Congress, and Saturday’s will be held at Hornbake Library North.

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Speakers will include numerous UMD librarians, faculty from various campus divisions, and several iSchool alum, as well as prominent archivists and scholars from throughout the United States. Highlights include panels and workshops on how archives can deal with audio materials, discussions about using digital tools to save our radio heritage, panels on how radio materials document race and gender throughout American history, and a workshop featuring three NEH representatives on how to find funding for archival projects.

Registration is free and open to the public, and can be completed by sending an e-mail to Kevin Palermo at kevinpalermo@gwmail.gwu.edu.

More information is available at the conference website.

Media Studies Spring Talks in Hornbake Library

We are pleased to announce the Spring Media Studies Talks, hosted by UMD Libraries, Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture, in Partnership with Media Studies at Catholic University of America.

Join us on March 26 at 4:30pm for a talk by Ethan Plaut of Stanford University.

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Ethan R. Plaut received his Ph.D. in Communication in 2014 from Stanford University, where he continues his research as a postdoctoral fellow in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. His dissertation addressed communication “avoidance”—the ways we limit our own communication—and other research interests include silence, propaganda, digital media, transparency, journalism, remix culture, media ethics, and humor. Recently published and upcoming work appears in both popular media and academic journals including Quartz, Public Opinion Quarterly, and Communication, Culture & Critique. Before coming to Stanford, Ethan spent three years working as a journalist in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Contact us at askhornbake@umd.edu with any questions.

Guest Lecture on “The Advertising Film Before Commercial Broadcasting “

Novelty News, May 1911

Novelty News, May 1911

Special Collections in Mass Media & Culture is pleased to announce an upcoming guest lecture presented by Martin Johnson, Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Catholic University on:

  • Date: Tuesday, October 21st
  • Time: 4:30pm
  • Location: 3rd floor instruction space in Hornbake Library North

The title of Dr. Johnson’s lecture is, “The Best Advertisement Will Never Be Written”: The Advertising Film Before Commercial Broadcasting.” He will discuss the attempts by producers of industrial films in the 1910s to create moving-image advertisements and, despite early setbacks due to resistance within the motion picture industry, the subsequent success of using non-theatrical spaces as advertising platforms.

Judicious Advertising, December 1912

Judicious Advertising, December 1912

“By locating these advertising films within a diverse media landscape,” Johnson claims, “it becomes possible to trace the emergence of ‘useful’ mass media in the early 20th century.”

The lecture is free and open to the public. Students in Communication and Film Studies are especially encouraged to attend. A reception will follow Dr. Johnson’s presentation.

Questions? Contact Mike Henry, Research Specialist, at mlhenry@umd.edu.

Driving and parking directions

International Women’s Day Feature: Mona Kent

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


mona_kent

I think how wonderful it would be if some writer could find a formula for giving women the substance and not the shadow of life.

 Mona Kent, in an interview with Time Magazine. September 12, 1949.

Mona Kent (1909-1990) was a radio and TV script writer. She wrote every episode of radio soap opera “Portia Faces Life.” Kent defines the problem driving the emotion in this soap opera as “a conflict between her wish to be a wife and mother, to keep a neat and cheerful home for her husband, Walter, and raise his children properly–and the ever-recurring necessity of being a lawyer and career woman in order to keep groceries in the kitchen.” Clearly, Kent had identified a relevant, divisive problem: an article in “Radio and Television Mirror” in 1950 asks readers, “Does a working wife cheat her family?” and encouraged women to write in with their opinions.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Kent criticizes the soap opera women for the success and power that derives from a set of self-sacrificing virtues. The writer speculated that “possibly, the American woman feels actually so dependent, economically and emotionally, that she has to appease her insecurity by identifying herself with one or more soap opera heroines.” In her novel, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Kent writes, “how much should a woman sacrifice for the man she loves?” To Kent, a virtuous and self-sacrificing woman like Portia, defined only by her love for her husband and children, lives only as a formula for soap-opera heroines.