Rare Community Radio Broadcasts Now Digitized

Photo of stack of audio reel boxes from NFCBSpecial Collections & University Archives is pleased to announce 600 historic community radio broadcasts are now available for streaming in UMD Digital Collections. These programs represent a portion of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) Program Archive, which resides in the National Public Broadcasting Archives (NPBA) held by Mass Media & Culture. They were digitized through a Recordings-at-Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) in 2017.

Spanning the years 1965-1986, these broadcasts come from community stations mostly throughout the U.S. and Canada, many of which are still thriving, and others which are no longer on the air. The breadth of programming contained in these programs is remarkable, and underscores the still-active mission of the NFCB to support and promote the participation of women and people of color at all levels of public broadcasting. This collection is one of few known archives that feature underrepresented voices in the history of American media.

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Anna Johns, the student assistant who created the enhanced metadata for the programs, described some of the more intriguing contents she encountered as she listened. For instance, the Feminist Radio Network, a project created and managed by women at Georgetown in the 1970s, offered some especially valuable content:

One particularly interesting recording, “Mabel Vernon: Suffragist” presents an interview with a 91 year old woman who participated in the woman’s suffrage movement. A program called “Writing about Women’s Lives” meanwhile, features both interviews with authors Grace Paley, Maxine Kumin, and Alice Walker and readings of their short works, while a “Classic Blues” program presents the music of influential women while discussing their importance to the development of the genre. These recordings preserve the momentous impact of diverse women through history, allowing contemporary feminists to observe their predecessors firsthand.

Among some of the interviews, lectures and speeches, Ms. Johns found valuable material there as well:

The program “Kahn-Tineta Horn of Mohawk Nation” contains a lecture by Native American activist Kahn-Tineta Horn about suppressed truths regarding Native Americans throughout history, as well as injustices imposed upon Native American people historically and in the contemporary era. The program “Auburn Avenue and Atlanta Black Commerce” features an interesting discussion about the city of Atlanta between World War I and World War II from the perspective of African American individuals, largely through interviews with people who lived through the era. And the program “Nikki Giovanni on Education” is a particularly notable 1978 speech by poet Nikki Giovanni discussing the importance of literacy, and the difficulties faced by African American children in schools.

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Additionally, there is a substantial number of musical programs that feature live performances from cultures throughout the world, including Javanese gamelan, Russian folk, Brazilian capoeira, Japanese koto, African mbira and American bluegrass.

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.

Laura Schnitker, Curator of Mass Media & Culture, was interviewed about the project on a podcast called Radio Survivor. Listen online


Post by Laura Schnitker | Ethnomusicologist, Audiovisual Archivist, and Curator of Mass Media & Culture in Special Collections and University Archives at University of Maryland Libraries

Photo of stack of audio reel boxes with titles including

The Illustrated Wartime Correspondence of Hendrik Willem van Loon

One of my favorite duties as a graduate assistant is working the reference desk in the Maryland Room. Having only been a part of Special Collections and University Archives for less than a year, there are still a number of collections I haven’t seen, and helping others with their research is one way that I get to learn more about our holdings. Recently, a researcher introduced me to the illustrated letters of Hendrik Willem van Loon in the Helen Sioussat papers. I was delighted by the brightly colored, whimsical illustrations van Loon drew on the envelopes he sent Sioussat, and seeing them inspired me to learn more about the two friends, both of whom were compelling historical figures I knew little about.

Illustration of a whale on an envelope by Hendrik Willem van Loon, sent via airmail to Helen Sioussat in Nassau, Bahamas

Envelope from a letter from Hendrik Willem van Loon to Helen Sioussat, February 24, 1941

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Underground Media Collections on Display in the Performing Arts Library

In honor of the exhibit “Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The 30-Year Journey of a Cult Film Sensation”, now on display in the Gallery of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library, Special Collections is highlighting the expansion of our materials related to local, DIY and underground media. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Maryland/D.C. area gave rise to a number of unique radio, film and music scenes that were largely documented through the DIY efforts of their participants, and the University of Maryland is playing an important role in preserving their histories. The photos, flyers, articles, fanzines, and sound and video recordings that survive in these collections show how local arts communities thrived through the creativity of the people they inspired.

Located across from the circulation desk in the Performing Arts Library, two large display cases showcase items from Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and Special Collections in the Performing Arts (SCPA). The SCUA case includes highlights from the WMUC Collection, and the recently acquired Jeff Krulik Collection, and the SCPA case includes highlights from the John Davis Photograph and Poster Collection, the D.C. Punk and Fanzine Collection, the Sharon Cheslow Punk Flyers Collection and the Jason Farrell Collection.

 

Radio Preservation Task Force Conference Coming to Hornbake Library

On February 26 and 27, the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force will host its first conference on the subjects of historical media archives, and the organization of educational and preservation initiatives on a national scale . Friday’s activities will take place downtown at the Library of Congress, and Saturday’s will be held at Hornbake Library North.

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Speakers will include numerous UMD librarians, faculty from various campus divisions, and several iSchool alum, as well as prominent archivists and scholars from throughout the United States. Highlights include panels and workshops on how archives can deal with audio materials, discussions about using digital tools to save our radio heritage, panels on how radio materials document race and gender throughout American history, and a workshop featuring three NEH representatives on how to find funding for archival projects.

Registration is free and open to the public, and can be completed by sending an e-mail to Kevin Palermo at kevinpalermo@gwmail.gwu.edu.

More information is available at the conference website.

International Women’s Day Feature: Mona Kent

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


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I think how wonderful it would be if some writer could find a formula for giving women the substance and not the shadow of life.

 Mona Kent, in an interview with Time Magazine. September 12, 1949.

Mona Kent (1909-1990) was a radio and TV script writer. She wrote every episode of radio soap opera “Portia Faces Life.” Kent defines the problem driving the emotion in this soap opera as “a conflict between her wish to be a wife and mother, to keep a neat and cheerful home for her husband, Walter, and raise his children properly–and the ever-recurring necessity of being a lawyer and career woman in order to keep groceries in the kitchen.” Clearly, Kent had identified a relevant, divisive problem: an article in “Radio and Television Mirror” in 1950 asks readers, “Does a working wife cheat her family?” and encouraged women to write in with their opinions.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Kent criticizes the soap opera women for the success and power that derives from a set of self-sacrificing virtues. The writer speculated that “possibly, the American woman feels actually so dependent, economically and emotionally, that she has to appease her insecurity by identifying herself with one or more soap opera heroines.” In her novel, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Kent writes, “how much should a woman sacrifice for the man she loves?” To Kent, a virtuous and self-sacrificing woman like Portia, defined only by her love for her husband and children, lives only as a formula for soap-opera heroines.

Transmitter

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This just in: the latest news from Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture! Read the Winter 2013 edition of Transmitter, the official bulletin of the Broadcasting Archives.

Revisit television’s early days with Max Morath… Learn about the family-friendly character of Pick Temple from his correspondence… Suit up in sequins with “Queen of Super CircusMary Hartline… celebrate with the 2012 Giants of Broadcasting… and more!

Stay tuned for more great updates from Transmitter.

Agnes Moorehead: Queen of Horror, Suspense, and the Supernatural

Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead, cover of I Love the Illusion, by Charles Tranberg.

While researching materials for the Halloween display from the Mass Media and Culture collections, one name kept popping up: Agnes Moorehead (1900 – 1974). Her repertoire extends from the golden years of radio to popular television, from movies to the stage. She also had a special flair for horror, suspense, and the supernatural.

Moorehead’s work in radio drama included participation in Mercury Theater on the Air and a role as Margo Lane on The Shadow, co-starring with Orson Welles. In the CBS show Suspense, her greatest success was her incredible performance as Mrs. Stevenson in the quintessential horror, Lucille Fletcher’s “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Spooky Special Collections Display, containing a feature of Agnes Moorehead's work in the realm of suspense and supernatural.

Spooky Special Collections Display, containing a feature of Agnes Moorehead’s work in the realm of suspense and supernatural.

Her role as Mrs. Stevenson later inspired director Douglas Heyes to cast Moorehead in an episode of The Twilight Zone, where she played an old woman attacked by miniature aliens. On stage, Moorehead played Donna Ana in Don Juan in Hell. Later, Moorehead was recruited to play Endora on the television comedy Bewitched. A versatile and respected actress, Moorehead succeeded across genres and performing-arts mediums, and especially made her mark on the world of the strange and supernatural.

Moorehead is just one of the many actresses and actors featured in the Mass Media and Culture collections in Special Collections and University Archives at UMD. There are a lot of resources pertaining to spooky and otherworldly subjects; if you ever feel like researching terror in radio, television, or movies, or if you just want to revisit the history of your favorite shows, this is a great place to start! Contact us for more information.