¡Escuchame! 5 Questions With Dr. Kathleen Franz

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is working on a new initiative, Escuchame: The History of Spanish Language Broadcasting in the U.S.  The museum has rich collections related to television, but few that tell the story of Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S. This initiative will document stories from early Telemundo and Univision stations as well as other public and independent stations. Documenting these stories will help show the influence these stations have had on the national narrative and the way the history of American television is written.

Portrait of Dr. Kathleen Franz

Dr. Kathleen Franz, Chair of Work & Industry and Curator of Business History at the National Museum of American History.

To understand more, and how our Affiliate network may participate, I asked five questions of Dr. Kathleen Franz, Chair of Work & Industry and Curator of Business History at the National Museum of American History.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be interested in your area of expertise?
In graduate school, I studied with one of the leading historians of advertising history in the U.S. and really became enthusiastic about the history of television and advertising as business history but also as popular culture. My work sits at the intersections of those two things.

Your current project centers on capturing the history of Spanish-language television in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. What sparked that idea and why is it important to capture this story?
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and saw first-hand the long history and power of Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S. through the pioneering station of KWEX whose roots go back to the 1950s. However, general and popular histories of television often leave out the history of Spanish-language TV in the golden era of the 1950s and 1960s. So, building an archive that housed, preserved, and made available the stories of women and men who created stations and the networks is really important, because the earliest Spanish-language broadcasting goes back to the era of radio in the 1930s, and the earliest television stations are there in the golden era with the first successful network, Spanish International Network (SIN), created in 1961.

A common thread to this huge collection of materials—time-worn press credentials, painted tennis shoes, photographs, mic flags, scripts—is that they represent decades of Spanish-language broadcasting from the network Telemundo. (NMAH)

What have you enjoyed most about this initiative? What has been an unexpected discovery, if any?
First, I have two wonderful collaborators at the museum, Dr. Mireya Loza, curator, Department of Work and Industry, and Melinda Machado, director, Office of Communications and Marketing, who have helped make contact with stations around the country and we’ve done the oral history and object collecting as a team. I’ve learned so much from working with them and meeting the various people who run the stations and put the programming on every day. We also had tremendous support from a private donor — of the Nicolas family in San Antonio who founded KCOR in 1954— the Smithsonian’s Latino Center, Telemundo, and Univision. I can’t name everyone here but I am so grateful for the support of the networks! This has been a serious collaboration to capture and preserve this history. One of the best, and unexpected discoveries, was a painting of the Televisa studios in Mexico City commissioned by Emilio Nicolas in the early 1960s. It’s so unusual to have an artist’s rendition of a TV set and the image captures the look and feel of that exciting era in television. Mr. Nicolas traveled regularly to Mexico City to produce programming at the studio and bring it back to the US Spanish-speaking market for SIN.

What would you like to share with Affiliates? And what would you like Affiliates to share with you?
I’m always delighted to talk to local audiences and I would be happy to talk about the collecting and sharing resources with Affiliates. In turn, it would help us to work with Affiliates to do collecting or memory days at their sites, especially ones who are in cities with long-running Spanish-language stations. We really want to capture what audiences thought and how they viewed and used the stations in their own lives.

What is your next project and what are you looking forward to with it?
Dr. Loza and I would like to publish an edited volume of the oral histories and we’ll be working on that over the next 18 months or so. I’m also currently working on the National Museum of American History’s major women’s history initiative exhibition for the centennial of Women’s suffrage. That exhibition will open at the museum in 2020 and then travel the country starting in 2021.

Dr. Franz is open to the possibility of visiting our Affiliate network in the fall to share more about this initiative. Do you have connections to Spanish-language television history? Contact your National Outreach Manager for more information about bringing Dr. Franz to your neighborhood.

Telemundo Microphone cubes

This series of microphone cubes used over the years by Telemundo 51 WSCV-TV in Florida was donated by Marilys Llanos, senior political reporter at at the station. (Photo by Laura Duff, Smithsonian Institution)

Kudos Affiliates! June 2018

Congratulations to these Affiliates on their recent accomplishments! Do you have a kudos to share? Please send potential kudos to Aaron Glavas, GlavasC@si.edu.

Funding

Conner Prairie (Fishers, Indiana) announced a partnership with Ritz Charles to invest approximately $3 million to renovate and expand Eli Lilly’s historic Chinese House. Support for the project includes a $500,000 pledge from Jay and Nancy Ricker, the founders of Ricker Oil Company, Inc., and a $500,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc.

Rhode Island Council for the Humanities announced a total of $136,429 in new grants to 14 humanities initiatives across the state including the Rhode Island Historical Society (Providence). The Society received a $12,000 Documentary Films grant to support films that preserve Rhode Island’s stories and bring its history to life.  The funding goes towards the development of the film Triple Decker, A New England Love Story.

DaVinci at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and ScienceThe New Mexico Humanities Council awarded a $5,000 grant to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science to support its series of education programs, Da Vinci Dialogues. The Dialogues consist of public lectures, panel discussions, and workshops that illustrate the many facets of Da Vinci’s genius as an artist, inventor, and scientist.

Awards and Recognition

Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) has named the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque, Iowa) the “Silos & Smokestacks People’s Site of the Year.”

During the Pennsylvania Museums Annual Statewide Museum Conference, the winners of statewide Institutional Achievement Awards were announced including two Senator John Heinz History Center sites. Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village was recognized for its newest educational curriculum, First Peoples: Archaeology at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. The Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park, Downtown, was recognized for its newest exhibition, From Maps to Mermaids: Carved Powder Horns in Early America.

Leadership Changes

W. James Burns has been named the new executive director of the Arizona Historical Society (Phoenix, Arizona). Dr. Burns comes to the Arizona Historical Society from the University of Arizona, where he served as Director of the Center for Creative Photography and the University of Arizona Museum of Art.

W. James Burns, Ph.D., Executive Director, Arizona Historical Society, Phoenix, AZ

Coming Up in Affiliateland in June 2018

ARIZONA

The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum will open the Smithsonian exhibition Water/Ways which focuses on the relationships between people and water, in Bisbee, 6.2.

PENNSYLVANIA

The Heinz History Center hosts History on Tap featuring a talk by Theresa McCulla, historian of the American Brewing History Initiative at the National Museum of American History, on how Prohibition influenced the alcohol industry, in Pittsburgh, 6.3.

TEXAS

Space Center Houston hosts Allan Needell, curator of space history at the National Air and Space Museum, who will talk about the Saturn V rocket, in Houston, 6.7.

WYOMING

Soon to be on view in Wyoming, George Catlin’s, Buffalo Chase with Bows and Lances, 1832-1833, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West opens the exhibition Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West which features three George Catlin paintings on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Cody, 6.8.

TENNESSEE

The International Storytelling Center will screen First Ladies Revealed: Twists of Fate, a program from the Smithsonian Channel, in Jonesborough, 6.11.

MARYLAND

The Smithsonian Associates lead a day-long Natural History of the Mid-Atlantic tour which will make a stop at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Solomons, 6.16.

WEST VIRGINIA

The Heritage Farm Museum and Village will screen the Smithsonian Channel’s program  Aerial America: West Virginia in Huntington, 6.20, 23.

FLORIDA

The Polk Museum of Art opens the exhibition The Von Wagner Code featuring the etching Roman Chariot Race, on loan from the National Museum of American History, in Lakeland, 6.23.