Historic Community Radio Broadcasts Now Available In UMD Digital Collections
Posted: Aug 15, 2018
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Six hundred historic community radio broadcasts are now available for streaming, thanks to the digitization efforts of the University of Maryland Libraries and a grant established to preserve at-risk recordings.
Spanning the years 1965-1986 and from stations mainly in the United States and Canada, the broadcasts showcase a diverse range of cultural and public affairs programming. The collection is one of few known archives that feature underrepresented voices in the history of American media.
The broadcasts represent a portion of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) Program Archive, which resides in the National Public Broadcasting Archives (NPBA) of the University Libraries. They were digitized through a Recordings-at-Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources in 2017.
The breadth of programs underscores the still-active mission of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NCFB) to support and promote the participation of women and people of color at all levels of public broadcasting.
Highlights include: “Song of the Indian” a cultural and public affairs program about Native Americans (WBSB-Bemidji, MN); a 1978 Nikki Giovanni speech on education (WRFG-Atlanta, GA) in which she discusses the difficulties faced by African-American children in schools; a four-part series entitled “Boone County Fiddle Contest” (KOPN-Columbia, MO) comprised of local musicians; a feature called “Who are the Panthers?” that includes interviews, commentary and speeches from a local Black Panther community (Albina, OR); 47 original broadcasts from the 1970s-era Feminist Radio Network that aired on WGTB in Georgetown; and several hundred music programs featuring live performances from cultures all over the world.
With access to these rare and vital primary source materials, scholars from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, media studies, sociology, political science, ethnomusicology, folklore, African-American history, and LGBTQ and women’s studies will be able to enrich historical contexts in both their research and teaching, broadening understandings of the human experience in the latter half of the 20th century.
These recordings will also be useful to educators from kindergarten through graduate school because they illustrate American history from alternative perspectives and demonstrate the vital platform that community radio has provided for people whose voices aren’t often heard on commercial airwaves.
"We are thrilled to be able to provide public access to these valuable records,” said Laura Schnitker, curator of the Mass Media & Culture unit which houses the NPBA. “When so much of broadcast history has been lost due to the fact that station owners have never made a habit of preserving their programs, it’s incredible that the NFCB tapes have survived into the 21st century. Each one offers a cultural snapshot that can provide a wealth of information about our collective past, as well as inform our understanding of issues that persist in the present day.”
The project builds on the ongoing efforts of the University Libraries to digitize and make available unique or rare collections. Since 2012, when the University Libraries centralized its digitization efforts, librarians have digitized more than 1.2 million images and text pages and 7,400 audiovisual hours.