Ken Burns Launches UNUM – New Media Initiative to Present Issues and Spark Conversations

By: Nov. 17, 2017
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Filmmaker Ken Burns today announced the launch of UNUM, a new digital destination where users can access clips from across Burns's films, explore themes that run through American history - including Leadership, Race, Innovation, and War - and relate them to issues of the present. UNUM builds on the vision behind the award-winning Ken Burns iPad app by enabling Burns and his team at Florentine Films to curate related content relevant to each scene: videos, articles, books, podcast excerpts, and tweets, which help viewers more deeply explore the theme or offer contemporary perspectives on the topics discussed.

For its premiere issue, UNUM will focus on the themes from Burns and Lynn Novick's new film THE VIETNAM WAR, the ten-part, 18-hour film that aired on PBS from September 17 through September 28. UNUM explores issues raised by the film which remain relevant to our contemporary society: What does it mean to be a patriot? Do we understand our enemy? What does war reveal about human nature? What forces divide us? Are political leaders being truthful with the public? You can visit the site at:

Burns and Novick have curated clips from THE VIETNAM WAR around these themes, and paired them with articles, interviews, podcast excerpts, and other commentary from the national conversation their film has inspired. Included in UNUM's "What War Reveals" chapter is what Burns and Novick call "Episode 11," a powerful conversation between John Musgrave, a Vietnam Veteran featured in the film, and veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

UNUM, which will be free for all users, was made possible thanks to support from the philanthropist David Rubenstein through The Better Angels Society, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the preservation of American history, introducing and educating Americans to multiple aspects of their history.

"The films of Ken Burns represent a national treasure," said David Rubenstein. "UNUM provides Americans a whole new way to explore our history, as Ken and his team curate video playlists around vital themes, annotated with contemporary perspectives."

"We are so grateful to David, truly one of our Better Angels, for making it possible for us to realize our vision of rearranging the electrons of our films to tell the stories that run across and through them," said Ken Burns.

Unum will serve as a free, easily accessible resource for educators and their students, providing a seamless connection between the historical events covered in the films and the conversations we as a country are having today.

"As filmmakers we are very appreciative of the response to our film THE VIETNAM WAR," Ken Burns said. "As Americans, however, we hope the discussion generated by the film will translate into greater engagement with the past and understanding of how we can find common ground to discuss current issues. We are particularly concerned that students and TEACHERS have the tools they need to understand our history and to contextualize many of the seemingly insurmountable problems we face today."

Funding for THE VIETNAM WAR is provided by Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Perry & Donna Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund.

THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington, DC. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.

About PBS: PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 100 million people through television and nearly 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS' broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. TEACHERS of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS' premier children's media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS Kids offers high-quality educational content on TV - including a new 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About WETA: WETA Washington, DC, is one of the largest producing stations of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, The KENNEDY Center Mark Twain Prize, The Library of Congress GERSHWIN PRIZE for Popular Song, Latino Americans and The Italian Americans; documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and The Vietnam War; and productions by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., including FINDING YOUR ROOTS with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Seasons 3 & 4),Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise and Africa's Great Civilizations. WETA presentations include Martha Stewart's Cooking School, Pati's Mexican Table, Sara's Weeknight Meals, Globe Trekker and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. The WETA studios and administrative offices are located in Arlington, Virginia. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at On social media, visit on Facebook or follow @WETAtvfm on Twitter.

About The Better Angels Society: The Better Angels Society is a non-profit organization that supports documentary films by Ken Burns and is dedicated to continuing his legacy. Their mission is to ensure these historically significant films are completed, broadcast, promoted, and shared in ways that reach and inform as many people as possible through robust educational outreach. The Society is currently raising funds for films in production through 2020 and for an ambitious new ten-year plan. They are also working to ensure that the next generation of documentary filmmakers who have been inspired by Ken Burns and his team receive the education, mentoring, training, and support they need to continue his legacy. To find out more or be part of The Better Angels Society,

Photo Credit: UNUM Website


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