PBS’ History Detectives returns with new season June 30

ARLINGTON, Va. –  A PBS audience favorite, a critical success and an armchair historians’ must-see, PBS’ History Detectives debuts its sixth season on PBS beginning Monday, June 30, 2008, 9-10 p.m., ET. The series is a co-production of Lion Television (UK) and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“Web Investigations,” a new feature hosted on the series’ Web site (pbs.org/historydetectives)  launches with the season six broadcast debut. Viewers can become history detectives themselves by directly participating in online investigations of historical mystery items submitted by viewers of the broadcast series. Each week, updates and new leads will be posted to help users uncover the mysteries behind an object. The final results will be announced online at the end of the investigation.

History Detectives is hosted by the four history detectives: Wesley Cowan, founder and owner of Cowan’s Auctions, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio, and an internationally recognized expert in historic Americana; Elyse Luray, an appraiser, licensed auctioneer and historian of popular culture; Gwendolyn Wright, professor of architecture, planning and preservation and professor of history at Columbia University; and Tukufu Zuberi, head of the sociology department and director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

History Detectives is truly interactive television: three-quarters of the items investigated on the series are culled from thousands of viewers’ submissions and chosen for their potential historical significance. Of these, close to 30 items a season are investigated by the four accomplished History Detectives, who travel coast-to-coast utilizing forensic technology and detective work to uncover an item’s origin, validity and worth. Bottom line – is it the real thing or a fake?

Investigating three objects in each one hour-long episode, the mission of the history detectives is busting myths and revealing the true history and identity of items pulled out of viewers’ attics, basements and backyards. Combing the priceless archives of our foremost American historical institutions, snaking down dusty back roads and snooping into the homes of everyday Americans, the detectives chase down the facts. Each object serves as a jumping-off point, telling the back story of the times, circumstances and individuals that played a role in its history.

Season six of History Detectives features a broad range of historical periods, multiple cultures and fascinating personalities, from dedicated soldiers serving in times of war to entertainment icons and U.S. presidents. Investigations will include:

• The moving diary of a young American pilot stationed in England during World War II, racing against time and against all odds to return home before the birth of his first child.

• An 1853 French Napoleon coin with a bent, split edge and a great bit of lore that suggests the coin was shot by Annie Oakley, the sharp-shooting star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

• An unsigned oil portrait of a contributor’s grandfather that he believes was painted by the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet.

• A classic Airstream trailer that might have been registered in Wally Byam’s (Airstream founder) Caravan Club International and taken part in a spectacular 221-day, 14,307-mile trek from the tip of Southern Africa to the pyramids of ancient Egypt.

• A Guild brand acoustic guitar that might have been the first signature guitar ever created for an African-American folksinger, the legendary Josh White, who is credited with introducing black folk, gospel and blues music to a world audience in the 1940s.

• A bound volume of 19th-century sheet music containing several “Abraham Lincoln” signatures. Could the book have originally come from the president’s personal library?

More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org.