Preservationists to screen archived WJZ footage in Hampden, celebrating station’s 70th anniversary

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Oprah anchors “Eyewitness News” in 1976. Image courtesy of MARMIA.

Locals can relive some classic moments in local TV history tonight at a screening in Hampden celebrating WJZ’s 70th anniversary. Highlights include the infamous 1979 Hanukkah blooper scene, Marty Bass flipping his wig, clips of a young Oprah anchoring the “Eyewitness News” desk and the hazy promo of weatherman Bob Turk and company’s adaptation of “My Girl.”

“I grew up watching the one promo, which was made in the eighties,” Siobhan Hagan, who’s spent years now working to digitize WJZ’s vast archive of footage, says of the Turk video. “I always wondered, Why is he going to this street in Fells Point and hallucinating these singers there? I realized now that it’s because he’s having a memory of the first promo they were doing in the ’70s.”

Hagan’s interest in WJZ dates back to her childhood, when it was her station of choice growing up in Baltimore. She later made archiving its footage the subject of her graduate school thesis at New York University.

But it became her mission, when the University of Baltimore’s Langsdale Library, her previous employer, determined it lacked the resources to continue housing–and ultimately archiving–the station’s records. In 2017, after the library had returned the footage to WJZ, Hagan reached out to station execs, and struck a deal to let her license and digitize the records.

Hagan founded the Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive (MARMIA), which set to work on preserving the WJZ archive. A volunteer-only effort, MARMIA has since been busy pouring through decades’ worth of film. To support its work, Hagan says the nonprofit hosts curated screenings like the one happening tonight in Hampden outside Mill No. 1.

The idea to do a 70th anniversary event came after MARMIA received a small grant from Preservation Maryland to digitize a program about historic sites in Baltimore, Hagan says. While talking with Nathan Dennies, chair of the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance, their conversation approached the history of Hampden and nearby Woodberry. They decided it’d be worthwhile to host a screening at one of North Baltimore’s historic mills to help fund MARMIA’s efforts

The event will take place at The Picker House building, located in the Mill No. 1 courtyard, starting at 7 p.m. Cosima, the nearby chic Sicilian restaurant, will be catering the reception. Admission costs $20 for MARMIA and Baltimore Heritage members and $25 for all others.

Beyond infamous clips, Hagan says the 70th anniversary package MARMIA is screening showcases “a lot of ‘slice of Baltimore life'” things like parades, profiles and pieces about students or schools.

“It’s our culture,” she says. “It’s beyond nostalgia, but nostalgia’s great.”

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Hagan was not working for the University of Baltimore when it returned WJZ’s archive to the station.

Ethan McLeod
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