WGBH Openvault

New Television; Hart Island

Part of New Television Workshop.

"Hart Island" tells the story of the uses of Hart Island, which has served as an internment locale for homeless men, drug addicts, and prisoners, and as a defense training ground. The work alternates images of Hart Island and the activity there with visual text describing its history. Close-up views of men unloading boxes and digging holes are seen. As the text gradually makes clear, these men are inmates from Rikers Island prison on a work crew. Their job is to bury the unclaimed dead (including children) of New York City. The viewer realizes that the boxes are coffins and that the holes being dug are graves. There is very little sound score to the work. At one point, the burial crew leader is interviewed briefly. The work was broadcast as a segment of episode 404 (1988), and episode 105 (1991), of "New Television. Approximate date: 1988

License Clip
New Television

Hart Island

Series Description

"New Television" began as a local pilot production of WNET (New York) in 1986. In 1987, WGBH signed on as co-producer, and the shows were aired in Boston and New York. In 1988 and 1989, KCET (Los Angeles) and WETA (D.C.) became producers in association. In 1991, PBS picked up "New Television," and it was broadcast nationally. The following year, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, replaced WNET, WETA, and KCET as co-producer with WGBH. In 1993, WGBH ceased to be a co-producer for the series, and the "home base" moved to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) in Hartford, CT.

"New Television" commissioned, produced, and acquired programming. In its early years, "New Television" broadcast works commissioned by The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. Increasingly, experimental films as well as video works were broadcast as a part of this series. Many of the later episodes of "New Television" contain works that play with and deconstruct the documentary genre. Series release date: 1986

Asset Type


Media Type


Minahan, Daniel
Film and Television
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “New Television; Hart Island,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed February 26, 2020, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E6EA5E05D0C24D058D80515EB0DC6696.
MLA: “New Television; Hart Island.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. February 26, 2020. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E6EA5E05D0C24D058D80515EB0DC6696>.
APA: New Television; Hart Island. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E6EA5E05D0C24D058D80515EB0DC6696
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