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Codebreaking: The UTSA Master Reel

June 18, 2009

During a recent sweep of all loose ends in the University Archives, I came across a box that I’d probably walked past a few hundred times.

I tossed it on my cart and rolled it back to my office, where I opened it up and found this:

What is it? Well, color video tape, of course, as the box says, and a conversation with our department head confirmed that it’s a 2″ quad video tape reel. It hit me: what I was looking at was the only video footage in the University Archives. As such, I immediately requested to have the tape digitized so that we could see what’s on it. Is it video footage of registration days in the ’70s? Recordings of classes in early academic concentrations (see label below)?

A few days ago, we had some researchers from the University Communications office in the Archives. While discussing their project in my office, I showed them the reel. They examined the label closely —

— and one said suddenly, “These are commercials!” He had deduced from the item numbers’ suffixes (-30, -60) that these were 30- and 60-second commercial spots for the university — “Institutional” is likely a commercial advertising the university from 1977 or 1978. This explains the “CR 11223” written on the reel (“Commercial Reel”).

Of course, we won’t know for sure what’s on the tape until it comes back from the a/v reformatting company. But stay tuned to find out! We should have the tape back in about a month.

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