History channel offering series to schools

In this image released by History, the new logo for History is shown. The History Channel is now History. The cable network quietly dropped "the" and "channel" from its name recently, claiming History for itself. The network has even changed its "H" logo to make it look bolder, less ancient. (AP Photo/History)

March 14, 2010 6:39:25 PM PDT
The History channel says it will give a free DVD copy of its sprawling 12-hour series on American history to any school in the country that wants one.

The network is launching a broad educational outreach to accompany "America The Story of Us," which premieres April 25. Before the series starts, it will mail posters, a teacher's guide and family viewing guide to 35,000 high schools and middle schools.

"America The Story of Us" is the most expensive project in the network's history, although Nancy Dubuc, the president and general manager, would not say how much is being spent. In scope, she called the series the broadest look at the nation's history on television since Alistair Cooke's "Personal History" aired in the early 1970s.

Rather than have historians stand in front of a camera, the series will recreate many of the events that it talks about, either through live action or computer animation. The network has shot scenes on three continents with 1,641 actors, extras and stuntmen.

Dubuc said she was particularly intrigued by the three-dimensional animation depicting workers putting a face on the Statue of Liberty. Other scenes that will be recreated include the crashing of a meteor into the Appalachian Mountains, the British Navy's bombardment of New York harbor during the Revolutionary War and Western plains teeming with herds of buffalo.

"It's a story we wanted to tell in epic proportions," Dubuc said.

She said the time felt right historically to produce the series, and it allows the network to make an important statement as it establishes itself as the go-to location for historical programming.

"There's no question we have been living in historic times the last couple of years, maybe more so than ever before in our recent memory," she said. "We just felt like the time was right to look at how we had gotten here."

The series also should have a long shelf life at the History channel - expect an epic number of reruns - and Dubuc said she wanted to make sure it resonated with people who are just learning about these events through their textbooks.

Any school that wants a copy for use in its curriculum, "all they have to do is request it, and they will have it," she said.

Beyond that giveaway, the network also is working with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to make $25,000 in scholarships available to students creating a video presentation of how their personal stories link with American history. Another $25,000 will be offered to teachers who offer innovative lesson plans in American history. Local libraries are also eligible for grants for creating displays advertising the series.


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