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Wisdom records

 Collection 0131-MMC-LAB

The Wisdom records, which span the years 1951-1966, documents the production of the NBC television series Wisdom, which broadcast half-hour interviews with prominent and respected people such as Pablo Picasso, David Ben Gurion, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Margaret Mead. The collection includes correspondence, transcripts, memoranda, contracts, newspaper clippings, photographs, and negatives. The collection documents the elements of the planning, production, and presentation of the Wisdom television series.


  • 1951-1966
  • Majority of material found within 1957-1959

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


13.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The Wisdom records span the years 1951 to 1966, with the bulk of the material from 1957 to 1959. The collection includes correspondence, transcripts, memoranda, contracts, newspaper clippings, photographs and negatives. The collection documents every element of the planning, production, and presentation of the Wisdom television series.

The collection also contains materials pertaining to the publication of Wisdom: Conversations with the Elder Wise Men of Our Day and Wisdom For Our Time. They include correspondence, drafts, book reviews and transcripts. Photographs and negatives found in this collection have been removed from their original placement within the Individual Program Files, put into proper photographic storage, and made into a distinct series, Series IV.

Biographical / Historical

Wisdom was a half-hour television series on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) which aired from 1957 to 1965. The program consisted of interviews with distinguished guests in the fields of arts, sciences and politics. These interviews were conducted by a knowledgeable expert, usually known to the guest. Wisdom was a direct result of NBC's newly formed Special Projects division, which was headed by Henry Salomon.

Earlier, between 1952 and 1956, NBC had broadcast half-hour interviews with many brilliant people for a series called, at times Conversations with Elder Wise Men, and at other times Conversations with Distinguished Persons. These highly respected programs premiered on May 18, 1952, and were rebroadcast in 1957 as part of the new series Wisdom, which premiered on September 15, 1957. The series opened with an interview with Pablo Picasso. New interviews were filmed to complete the series resulting in over 40 interviews with such prominent people as David Ben Gurion, Bertrand Russell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nadia Boulanger, Eamon De Valera, Robert Frost, and Margaret Mead. These interviews were rebroadcast between 1961 and 1962. In 1965, four programs that had been intended for earlier broadcast were aired occasionally on Sunday afternoons.

In 1958, TV Guide described the series as "a large and imposing asset to the public affairs side of the television ledger."

In 1957, Robert D. Graff was the producer, director, and sometimes acted as interviewer. Graff, who joined NBC in 1951, produced and directed many specials for NBC, including F.D.R., Winston Churchill—The Valiant Years, Assignment: Southeast Asia, and Assignment: India. By 1959, the programs were produced by Donald Hyatt, a well known documentary producer (Victory at Sea) and James Nelson, manager of NBC-TV's Special Projects division and assistant to NBC Television President Sylvester L. (Pat) Weaver. Other producers for the series were Robert Emmett Ginna, Jr., Ben Park, Caroline Burke, and Romney Wheeler.

Two books were published from the materials generated for the preparation of the series. The first, Wisdom: Conversations with the Elder Wise Men of Our Day was published in 1958 and later, Wisdom For Our Time, published in 1961, both by W. W. Norton & Co., and edited by James Nelson.


This collection is arranged into four series:

Series 1
Individual Program Files
Series 2
Administrative Files
Series 3
Series 4
Photographs and Negatives

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

NBC gave the collection to the Broadcast Pioneers Library in 1971. It was transferred to the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland Libraries in 1995.

Processing Information

Materials were placed in acid-free folders and then into acid-free boxes.

Guide to the Wisdom records
Processed by Karen Fishman.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2012-08-21: Tagged with relevant subject headings by Chuck Howell.
  • 2018-01-19: Minor updates and revisition made post ArchivesSpace migration by Joanne Archer.
  • 2022-06-17: Lindsay Oliver edited minor details in the biographical note; Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742