Thousands of photographs of Mississippi farm families during the nineteen-fifties and sixties can now be searched and viewed on the Internet, thanks to a project of Mississippi State University’s Consortium for the History of Agricultural and Rural Mississippi (CHARM). Photographs and scripts of 136 families from the Howard Langfitt WLBT “Farm Family of the Week” Collection are the first group completed from some 17,000 images and 342 scripts which are being preserved, digitized and made available to the public.
The images and scripts, available at http://library.msstate.edu/charm/, are being digitized and stored in Hyperion, a digital media archive created by the Sirsi Corporation. To date, 212 families have been located and have given permission for their “Farm Family of the Week” images and photographs to be used on the CHARM WEB site. Additional farm families will be added to the website in the near future.
The images and scripts were collected and donated to the MSU Libraries’ Special Collections Department by Howard Langfitt, producer of the “Farm Family of the Week” program, a weekly half-hour feature which appeared on Fridays as a part of the show “RFD Televisit,” a daily agricultural program. Langfitt was Farm Services Director at WLBT-TV and host of “RFD Televisit.”
To be chosen as “Farm Family of the Week,” families had to live within the WLBT-TV viewing area and also had to qualify as excellent farmers to meet the high standards of Langfitt and of the extension agents who helped select the families. From interviews with the families, Langfitt produced a script which was used as a narrative to accompany photographs selected from the many taken by Langfitt as he toured the farms with the families. On the day of the program, the family would come to the studio and talk with Langfitt as a part of the segment. On Fridays from 1954 to 1961, 373 “Farm Family of the Week” segments were aired.
“These images and scripts in Langfitt’s collection make a significant contribution to our knowledge of Mississippi’s agricultural history during the 1950s and 60s,” said Frances Coleman, Dean of MSU Libraries. “They are a rich source of information about farm crops, timber production, dairy, poultry and cattle production, barns and outbuildings, houses, farming techniques and equipment, farm products, and preservation of food. The collection also contains considerable information about family life and activities and about the activities of the county extension agents who assisted them.”
The mission of CHARM is to promote understanding and appreciation of the role played by agriculture, forestry and rural life in Mississippi’s past by collecting, preserving and providing access to important historical materials as a foundation for teaching, learning and research.
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