Marion Stokes

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Marion Stokes
Marion Stokes.png
Stokes as a young woman
Marion Marguerite Butler

(1929-11-25)November 25, 1929
DiedDecember 14, 2012(2012-12-14) (aged 83)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationTelevision producer, Archivist
Spouse(s)John Stokes Jr.

Marion Marguerite Stokes (née Butler; November 25, 1929 – December 14, 2012)[1] was a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, access television producer, civil rights demonstrator, activist, librarian, and prolific archivist, especially known for amassing hundreds of thousands of hours of television news footage spanning 35 years, from 1977 until her death at age 83,[2] at which time she operated nine properties and three storage units.[3]


Television news[edit]

The tape collection consisted of 24/7-coverage of Fox, MSNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, and other networks—recorded on up to eight separate VCRs stationed throughout her house. She had a husband and children, and family outings were planned around the length of a VHS tape. Every six hours when the tapes would be ending, Stokes and her husband would run around the house to switch them out—even cutting short meals at restaurants to make it home to switch out tapes in time. Later in life when she was not as agile, Stokes trained a helper to do the task for her.[4] The archives ultimately grew to about 71,000 (originally erroneously reported as 140,000 in the media)[5][6] VHS and Betamax tapes (many up to 8 hours each) stacked in her home and apartments she rented just to store them.[2]

She became convinced there was a lot of detail in the news at risk of disappearing forever, so she began taping. Her son, Michael Metelits, told WNYC that Stokes "channeled her natural hoarding tendencies to [the] task [of creating an archive]".[3]

Her collection is not the only instance of massive television footage taping, but the care in preserving the collection is very unusual. Known collections of similar scale have not been as well-maintained and lack the timely and local focus.[7]

Macintosh computers[edit]

Stokes bought many Macintosh computers since the brand's inception,[4] along with various other Apple peripherals. At her death, 192 of the computers remained in her possession. Stokes kept the unopened items in a climate-controlled storage garage for posterity. The collection, speculated to be one of the last of its nature remaining, sold on eBay to an anonymous buyer.[8] Sensing the immense potential of the Apple brand during its infancy, Stokes had the foresight to invest in Apple stock while the company was still fledgling by using capital from her in-laws. Later on, she would encourage her already-rich in-laws to also invest in Apple, advice which they followed and profited greatly from, increasing their already impressive wealth even further. Stokes would then allocate a portion of her profits into her around-the-clock recording project.[9]


She received half a dozen daily newspapers and 100–150 monthly periodicals,[3] collected for half a century.[4] She accumulated 30,000–40,000 books. Metelits told WNYC in the mid-1970s that the family would frequent the bookstore to purchase $800 worth of new books.[3] She collected toys and dollhouses.[10]

Select list of programs recorded[edit]

Television producer[edit]

From 1967 to 1969, Stokes co-produced a Sunday morning television show in Philadelphia, called Input, with her husband John.[16] Its focus was on social justice topics.[17]


Stokes bequeathed her son Michael Metelits the entire television collection, with no instructions other than to donate it to a charity of his choice. After a stringent process of considering potential recipients, Metelits gave the collection to The Internet Archive one year after Stokes' death. Four shipping containers were required to move the collection cross-country to Internet Archive's headquarters in San Francisco,[2] a move which cost her estate $16,000.[10] It was the largest collection they had ever received.[18]

The group agreed to digitize the volumes, a process which was expected to run fully on round-the-clock volunteers, costing $2 million and taking 20 digitizing machines several years to complete. As of November 2014, the project was still active.[2]

A documentary about her life, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project,[19][20] was directed by Matt Wolf and premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.[21][22][23]

Stokes has been described as a pioneer and a visionary[24] who committed much of her life to preserving televisual history. Her primary objective was to "protect the truth" from fake news and to let people assess the archived material objectively. Stokes' final recording took place as she was dying; it captured the Sandy Hook massacre.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vernon Clark (December 21, 2012). "Marion Stokes, coproducer of TV show". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Morgan Winsor (December 9, 2013). "TV producer's collection of 840,000 hours of news tapes finds a home". CNN. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d PJ Vogt, Alex Goldman (December 12, 2013). "#9 - The Second Life of Marion Stokes". (Podcast). WNYC. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Sarah Kessler (November 21, 2013). "The Incredible Story of Marion Stokes, Who Single-Handedly Taped 35 Years of TV News". Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  5. ^ PJ Vogt (March 26, 2014). "The Internet Archive has Started Uploading 71,716 Videotapes Worth of TV News". Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  6. ^ Sarah Kessler (November 21, 2013). "The Incredible Story Of Marion Stokes, Who Single-Handedly Taped 35 Years Of TV News". Fast Company. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Macdonald, Roger. "A Dream to Preserve TV News, on the Road to Realization… with Your Help". Internet Archive Blog. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  8. ^ Adam Rosen (March 19, 2014). "Macs in the Box: The Incredible Mac Collection of Marion Stokes. Now For Sale". Cult of Mac. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Coleman, Lauren deLisa. "How The Data This Woman Stored Could Change Your Life". Forbes. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Librarian Recorded 800,000 Hours of News Footage Over 35 Years". NBC Philadelphia. December 9, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  11. ^ Lauren deLisa Coleman (May 8, 2019). "How The Data This Woman Stored Could Change Your Life". Forbes. Integrated Whale Media Investments. Archived from the original on January 1, 2021.
  12. ^ Mosley, Tonya; Hagan, Allison (November 14, 2019). "Here & Now: 'Recorder': Meet The Woman Who Recorded 70,000 Tapes Of American News". WBUR-FM. Boston University. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Ihaza, Jeff (June 19, 2020). "How Marion Stokes, an activist who recorded the news nonstop for decades, can help us understand this moment". Mic. Bustle Digital Group. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020.
  14. ^ Hoffman, Jordan (April 30, 2019). "One woman's quest to record everything on TV led to her ruin". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on May 1, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Phillips, Craig (June 9, 2020). "How Do You Sort Through 70,000 Videotapes?". PBS. PBS. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020.
  16. ^ "Obituary for STOKES MARION MARGUERITE THOMPSON (Aged 83)". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. December 19, 2012. pp. B06. Retrieved September 29, 2020 – via
  17. ^ "Marion Stokes Input TV Papers : Free Texts : Free Download, Borrow and Streaming : Internet Archive".
  18. ^ Nick Vadala (December 4, 2013). "Germantown's Marion Stokes archived 35 years of TV news". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  19. ^ "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, Shooting the Mafia, and The Irishman". Film Comment. November 26, 2019.
  20. ^ The Endangered Internet Archive Is Full of Treasures|Gizmodo Australia
  21. ^ Kalia, Ammar (October 4, 2019). "'Ahead of her time': the woman who recorded the news for 30 years". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved October 4, 2019 – via
  22. ^ "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project | 2019 Tribeca Film Festival". Tribeca. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  23. ^ 15 highlights at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in NYC - CBS News
  24. ^ Coleman, Lauren deLisa. "How The Data This Woman Stored Could Change Your Life". Forbes. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  25. ^ "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project". Retrieved June 6, 2021.

External links[edit]

  • Marion Stokes Collection at The Internet Archive - personal papers, books, films, photos, and audio recordings are stored and may be browsed by searching for 'Marion Stokes'
  • "Input" (1968-71) - one of the first television programs Marion Stokes was involved in producing at then-CBS affiliate WCAU-TV10; features political discussion and debate among people of varying socioeconomic statuses. She made sure the original Ampex one inch tape broadcast reels were preserved and then copied them to Betamax L-500 tapes when the format was launched in the late 1970s.
  • TLDR podcast episode on the legacy of Marion Stokes; features an interview with her son, as well as Roger Macdonald, the director of the Internet Archive's television archive.