History & Mission

Media Burn collects, preserves, and distributes documentary and experimental media produced by artists, activists, and community groups. Our mission is to create positive social change by amplifying underheard voices, both in contemporary dialogue and the historical record.

We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Our growing video collection features 10,000+ videos from a geographically, socially, and economically diverse community of videomakers from around the world who share a deeply rooted commitment to increasing our understanding of other human beings and communities.

The collection’s roots are in the “guerrilla television” movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when the technology of portable videotape mobilized new groups of mediamakers to tell their communities’ stories with cheap, easy-to-use video cameras. No longer shut out of film and television unions or burdened by expensive equipment no one would teach them how to use, ordinary people were empowered to tell their own stories.

Our full collection is available for free online at mediaburn.org. Since the streaming video site’s launch in 2006, more than 25 million people have watched our videos. In addition to watching the more than 5,000 hours of videos in our online collection, you can be part of our community by joining us for virtual and in-person events; subscribing to our mailing list; using our educational materials and digital exhibits for teaching, learning, and research; utilizing our archival consulting and digitization services; or by adding your knowledge or videotapes to our growing collection.

Our Story

The Media Burn Archive was founded in 2003 by Tom Weinberg after a 40-year-long career producing documentaries and being a major advocate for independent producers. In 1978, he created the show Image Union, which brought the work of independent film and videomakers to a Chicago television audience for the first time. His programs have won four Emmy awards, a Silver Circle lifetime achievement award from the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and he shared in a duPont-Columbia University journalism award as a member of TVTV.

“Media Burn” was the name of a remarkable 1975 countercultural event by San Francisco-based art and architecture group, Ant Farm. Curtis Schreier, Chip Lord, Doug Michels, and Uncle Buddy took responsibility for a modified 1959 Cadillac Biarritz convertible smashing through a wall of burning television sets in the Cow Palace parking lot. Doug Hall appeared as President Kennedy.

This site was, in no small way, inspired by that classic Ant Farm event and video. The first use of the phrase “Media Burn” was in a monograph and book proposal by Tom Weinberg in 1969. It is still in process.

One of our heroes is Studs Terkel, whose ability to portray the stories of “ordinary” people is our model. We are lucky to have several hundred videos featuring Studs, donated from his personal collection.

Media Burn is a project of the Fund for Innovative TV. FITV is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 1990 with a mission to produce and distribute independent documentary video and television that educates and entertains. FITV has produced many award-winning television series, including THE 90’s, Chicago Slices, and Weekend TV, and dozens of documentaries.

The creation of this site, including database, archiving, digitizing, website design and grunt work has been a labor of love, nurtured by Tom Weinberg, Sara Chapman, Carolyn Faber, Eric Kramer, our board of directors, hundreds of interns, and dozens of others.

Copyright © 2024 Media Burn Archive.
Media Burn Archive | 935 W Chestnut St Suite 405 Chicago IL 60642
(312) 964-5020 | [email protected]