A digital home for a station’s historical archives

Montana News Archive

Greater Montana Foundation, Montana Broadcaster's Association
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Montana News Archive Project is a software application designed to give local broadcast stations a digital home for their historical archives.

The need for a system like this became all too evident to me as I was sifting through the historical archives at KTVQ in Billings, Mont., searching for footage to use in the station’s 60th anniversary programming. The prospect of searching for a story or a topic — even if I knew the exact date — was such a time consuming task that it became obvious why reporters rarely went through the trouble of pulling historical material. With the amazing trove of history in those archives, this struck me as a missed opportunity.

It was also frustrating to know that I had no meaningful way to pass the things I was learning along to the next person that would venture into the archives. If I made notes about where to find cool things, how could I guarantee that the next person would be able to find those those?

Out of these problems came the solution for a browser-based content management system built on on the following principles:

Step-by-step approach: Recognizing the staffing concerns of local broadcasters, the system is designed to show immediate benefit with minimal time investment. Each step in the process provides a cognizable benefit, even if the system is not implemented to completion.

Open-source code: The code for the system is free to use and open-source.

Self-hosted: Stations maintain ownership of their archives.

Data portability: If a station wants to migrate away from the system, the data remains easily accessible in a sensible folder structure and human-readable .json files.

After securing grant funding in Summer 2015 from the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Broadcaster’s Association, I served as the product manager on a five-person engineering team, shepherding the project to a successful launch at KTVQ in Billings in Summer 2016.

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