Two years ago, the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board founded the Radio Preservation Task Force. Initially a collection of about 100 radio history scholars and archivists, the RPTF now counts more than 150 members and 300 member-archives.
In 2015 the Task Force conducted a multi-phase survey of existing radio recording archives and identified caches heretofore lost to history, particularly as they related to noncommercial and educational broadcast stations. Enriched by this metadata, where do we go from here?
Enter “Saving America’s Radio Heritage: Radio Preservation, Access, and Education,” the first-ever gathering of the Task Force, scheduled for February 25-27 in Washington, D.C. The first day is devoted to tours of the LoC’s audio/visual archiving operations and the studios of National Public Radio.
Day two is packed with some of the best radio history research going on today, covering a dizzying range of topics. We also get to experience keynotes from Paddy Scannell, an expert in the history of radio and culture, and Sam Brylawski, one of the most ambitious and forward-thinking audio archivists in the country.
The final day of the conference is primarily devoted to work: workshops will be held on the prospects and tools of audio preservation and Task Force members will explore ways to help fund and sustain such archives. The Task Force also has nine interest-caucuses, some of which will be convening to discuss potential projects. I’m chair of the Labor Radio caucus; we don’t have a formal spot but I hope to gather a handful of hopeful members to discuss the possibility of how we might leverage our collaborative efforts to help the WFMT Radio Network fully digitize its archives of the thousands of programs oral historian Studs Terkel broadcast on WFMT between 1952 and 1997.
Perhaps the best thing about all of this is that the conference is free to kindred spirits working on radio research and archive preservation, so if you’re in the D.C. area during the last week in February visit the conference site to register. I’ve never witnessed a convergence of radio scholars like this before, and I look forward to soaking in their knowledge and enthusiasm for broadcasting.