The way we watched: Vintage television programmes, memories, and memorabilia

Author(s): Piper, Helen

This paper explores television viewing memories of a kind that have rarely been acknowledged, whether in formal histories of television or by the ubiquitous archive ‘clip show’. Much of the academic work that explicitly addresses questions of television and memory has been disproportionately preoccupied with viewers’ recall of historical events. Here, the author draws on a viewer reminiscence project to emphasise how favourite entertainment shows once integral to family life in the 1960s and 1970s are today bound up with the more complex and diffuse emotions that surround the everyday past. The author also uses the idea of ‘vintage’, specifically as a designation for something that ‘belongs’ to a certain period, to contemplate the connections between memories of programmes and the sentiments evoked by the vestiges of television-related material culture (including ‘the box’ itself and other items of memorabilia). Both reminiscence and the acquisition of vintage goods are ways of constructing the cultural past, and both differ markedly in form and outcome from the re-consumption of the television archive that is routinely promoted by broadcasters and DVD distributors. The paper will conclude that as critical re-engagement with the extant moving image text is a poor substitute for the original performance, reminiscence and vintage material culture might offer more effective insight into past engagement with television. For similar reasons the study of both memory and materiality may provide appropriate intellectual contexts to complement the study of old programmes in text-centred critical/aesthetic discourse.

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Preferred Citation
Piper, Helen: The way we watched: Vintage television programmes, memories, and memorabilia. In: NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies, Jg. 4 (2015), Nr. 2, S. 123-142. DOI:
 author = {Piper, Helen},
 title = {The way we watched: Vintage television programmes, memories, and memorabilia},
 year = 2015,
 doi = "\url{}",
 volume = 4,
 address = {Amsterdam},
 journal = {NECSUS. European Journal of Media Studies},
 number = 2,
 pages = {123--142},
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