Portable Channel: Digitizing a Hidden Collection of Alternative Community Television

Material Description

Portable Channel (PC) was a Rochester, NY non-profit (1971–1987) founded by Bonnie Sherr Klein. PC supported community access to video equipment, provided training and produced programs with an emphasis on community activism and documentary work. The organization had a unique relationship with the public television station WXXI-TV, who aired PC’s monthly program HOMEMADE TV. After PC closed in 1987 the collection was sold to Visual Studies Workshop. The collection consists of 910 videotapes in various formats; the majority of the material is ½ inch open reel with some ¾ inch and a few examples of One-inch and Quad formats. About half of the videotapes in the collection were produced for HOMEMADE TV, which ran from 1972–1975 with a total of 28 thirty-minute programs. The programs varied in format and content but were united by the goal of expanding television by encouraging community involvement in TV production. There are an average of 10 tapes in the collection for each HOMEMADE TV episode, from rough footage to final edit. There were also a large number of documentary project tapes that never made it to broadcast, and tapes documenting PC community workshops and activities. Subjects of the programs include: senior living, women ministers, broadcast journalism, video art, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Vietnam War, religious conscientious objection, the Attica riots, cable television, community centers, youth, the women’s movement, and more. The majority of the 720 tapes nominated for digitization were made prior to 1977, after which PC shifted towards commercial productions.


The goal of this project is to provide access to currently inaccessible and decaying videotapes made by a pioneering video organization that produced some of the earliest community-made documentary television in the United States. Over an 18-month project, Visual Studies Workshop (VSW) will transfer 720 videotapes from the Portable Channel (PC) collection to digital files, and create associated technical and descriptive metadata. Once digitized, the videos and descriptive metadata will be shared online on The College at Brockport SUNY’s Digital Commons. The digitized video and metadata will also be accessible onsite at VSW and copies of master digital files will be distributed to selected academic libraries with complementary collections.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Visual Studies Workshop


  • Ms. Jessica Johnston (Visual Studies Workshop)

Date Range

1971 - 1971

Geographic Scope

The majority of the material covers the Rochester and Western New York region, with a few programs that feature communities in Pennsylvania and Boston.


  • 720 Audiovisual Recordings