Philadelphia woman Marion Stokes had what friends thought was an eccentric hobby of videotaping local and cable news programs. Thanks to her dedication to taping, future generations will now be able to see news broadcasts that might have been lost forever.
Stokes, a former librarian, began taping the news in 1977 and continued this until her passing in 2012. At first, Stokes just taped a variety of programs but later found the news to be more valuable. She would tape hours and hours of the news, even ending dinners and engagements to rush home and change out her VHS tapes.
Stokes’ son, Michael Metelits, said that his mother’s work is so important that it became a priority to almost everything else in the household in a profile from Fast Company. Metelits said that the taping “Provided a certain rhythm to her life” and that she knew that the taping would prove “useful” in the future.
The content will be useful indeed after librarian for the Internet Archive Roger MacDonald learned of the tapes. He reached out to Stokes’ son, asking if he’d be willing to part with his mother’s life’s work. At the Internet Archive, the Internet’s history is cataloged and it began archiving television footage and content as well. Tackling Stokes’ work will prove daunting as she amassed a whopping 40,000 tapes during the 35 years she recorded the news.
Stokes’ son said that her mother’s tapes had become so numerous, she had to store them in apartments that she owned across Philadelphia. When she was asked about her elaborate recording scheme, which involved several televisions and VHS recorders, she simply told friends she was archiving. Stokes had become too old at one point to continue taping, so she hired a man to take over the operation. She passed in 2012.
This year, Metelits visited the Internet Archive’s operation in San Francisco and saw part of his mother’s work digitized. It was a bittersweet moment that left Metelits emotional but cemented that the strange habit of his mother truly would mean something important in the end.