Site of Week 040710 Discovering how the hotly debated health-care reform bill became law, or learning about other legislative actions, is now as simple as watching a viral YouTube video: The contents of the C-SPAN Archives at Purdue Research Park are now online and so far, 160,000 hours that span 23 years of history are available for free viewing. Robert X. Browning, C-SPAN Archives director and an associate professor of political science at Purdue University, said the site is a political candy store that promotes the democratic process.

“Some people are looking for the gotcha moments,’ and I guess that is another way it expands the C-SPAN vision in that it makes people accountable,” Browning said. “When C-SPAN put the Congress on television, it meant they were in the public eye. So now, each speech, every debate is not only seen the first time, but can be seen and researched multiple times.

There is no deniability anymore that you didn’t say it because it is right there in the video. C-SPAN broadcasts 24 hours a day, carrying live feeds and rebroadcasts of the Senate and House of Representatives, plus original programming on three channels. Moving to a web-based archive has been in the works for more than two years, Browning said. The new web site lets anyone access video by searching by speaker names, titles, sponsors, committees, categories, and other keywords. Sessions also contain transcripts from the Congressional Record. The full use for high school students, teachers, and citizens has yet to be realized, said R. Douglas Hurt, head of Purdue’s Department of History. “This archive will be remarkably flexible, and it is only restricted by the researchers and the scholar,” he said.

About the Author:

Jeff Festa