About Us

Media Burn Archive collects, restores, and distributes documentary video and television created by artists, activists, and community groups. Our mission is to use archival media to deepen context and encourage critical thought through a social justice lens.

The videos in the Media Burn collection represent an alternative, more equitable portrait of the 20th century than that which is contained in mainstream media archives. 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.

The 8,000 videos in the collection cover many topics but share important qualities: they were created outside of corporate contexts; they teach us about the world and our common humanity; and they demonstrate artistry, skill, and creativity. Our full collection is available for free at mediaburn.org. Since the streaming video site’s launch in 2006, more than 20 million people have watched our videos.

The Media Burn collection of videos were created by a geographically, socially, and economically diverse community of videomakers throughout the world. The collection forms an unmatched portrait of American life from 1949-2019, created by individuals with a deeply rooted commitment to increasing our understanding of other human beings and communities. Our hero 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.

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.

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 exposes audiences to diverse points of view. 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, and the contributions, mostly voluntary, from dozens more.

Our People

Executive Director: Sara Chapman email: sara (at) mediaburn (dot) org

Archivist: Dan Erdman email: dan (at) mediaburn (dot) org

Board of Directors:

Chair, Tom Weinberg (CV) email: tom (at) mediaburn (dot) org
Vice President, Thea Flaum
Secretary, Dee Davis
Treasurer, Eric Kramer

Member, Elizabeth Coffman
Member, Jordana Dym
Member, Bob Hercules
Member, Judy Hoffman
Member, Ben Kolak
Member, Brian Kramer
Member, Raymond Lambert

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Website development by Michael Cannon, Axelerant

Our Supporters

In addition to these government and foundation sources, we have flourished over the last sixteen years due to the generous support of nearly 200 individuals.

Join them today and pledge your support for documentaries that change the way we think.

NHPRC

National Endowment for the Humanities

Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
Print
Driehaus Foundation
Arts and Business Council of Chicago

Illinois Arts Council

Arts Work Fund
DCASE
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