WGBH Educational Foundation

To support the production and associated marketing and promotion of two prime time American Experience documentary films about the role of science and technology in history

  • Amount $1,000,000
  • City Boston, MA
  • Investigator Cameo George
  • Year 2021
  • Program Public Understanding
  • Sub-program Television

This grant supports the production and broadcast of two new technology-themed documentary films by American Experience, the long-running, award-winning history series produced by Boston television studio WGBH and distributed nationally on PBS. The first documentary, Black Death at the Golden Gate, looks at the scientific and social challenges posed by the threat of rampant disease through the true story of the outbreak of Bubonic Plague that hit San Francisco around 1900. Efforts to contain the disease were hampered by poor understanding of disease transmission, perceived threats to the city’s economic interests, and racially-biased assumptions about the nature and spread of the disease, as well as by an earthquake that roiled the city in 1906. The second documentary, The St. Francis Dam Disaster, tells a cautionary tale of one of the worst American civil engineering disasters, the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in March 1928, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, the loss of millions of dollars, and the end of the career of pioneering Los Angeles civil engineer, William Mulholland. Occurring in a period when the control of water via massive engineering projects was transforming the American west, the disaster inspired a renewed emphasis on safety in dam siting and construction, including at the nascent Hoover Dam.

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