Broadcast History at Maryland's Special Collections in Mass Media & Culture

Curator's Note

Editor's Note: This post was co-curated by Josh Shepperd and Douglas Gomery

The Radio Preservation Task Force:

Growing out of the National Recording Preservation Plan (NRPP) of the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), the Radio Preservation Task Force (RPTF) is the Library of Congress’s first national radio history project. Composed of 120 media history faculty and nearly 275 archives and growing, the RPTF is mapping available radio materials, building a metadata search engine, and developing strategies to research and preserve the cultural history of radio. We are delighted to have an online partnership with In Media Res. As part of our partnership, this week members of the RPTF curate posts on under-researched archives and their collections.

The Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture (SCMMC) at the University of Maryland-College Park serves as the Coordinating Archive for the RPTF. The SCMMC was founded by NBC executive William Hedges in 1972, and is supported by the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation. Chuck Howell, Michael Henry, and Laura Schnitker comprise its staff, and Douglas Gomery is the archive’s Scholar-in-Residence. Within the SCMMC, the Library of American Broadcasting and National Public Broadcasting collections hold over one hundred thousand audio tapes and CDs, twelve thousand films, kinescopes, and videotapes, ten thousand books and monographs, and hundreds of thousands of pages of primary documents in the form of correspondence, ledgers, reports, and program development written by show runners, talent, distribution divisions, and network administrators.

Sound is a primary source. By focusing on the preservation of local and noncommercial broadcasts between 1925 and 1975, the RPTF hopes to expand educational access to the debates, social movements, and ways of life captured by radio interviews, news reports, musical performances, and community outreach programs.

Provided in its full historical radio “flow” including musical segues, the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) reports on the arrest of Freedom Riders who stepped into a segregated restroom in Alabama on May 24, 1961. A coffee commercial and a description of traffic conditions precede reaction from the Attorney General and Robert Kennedy. This significant historical transcription, one of thousands of similar recordings at the SCMMC, provides record of a Civil Rights event while revealing historical conventions in journalism, advertising, and media aesthetics.


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