FDR’s fireside chats. Coverage of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The end of Prohibition. These are just some of the historical moments captured and broadcast to people by radio, which for the first half of the 20th century was the main form of entertainment and news. However, many historical broadcasts are in danger of being lost. To try and combat this, the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board, Radio Preservation Task Force, University of Maryland and Shiers Memorial Fund are sponsoring a two-day conference next week with the nation’s top scholars and archivists to discuss the state of America’s radio heritage preservation.
In 2013, the Library of Congress released “The Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan,” after it was revealed that the long-term survival of America’s recorded sound history was threatened. According to research, vast numbers of radio broadcast recordings and transcription discs of national and local broadcasts had been either lost or destroyed. The full extent of what is still able to be preserved is unknown. As a result, the Radio Preservation Task Force was created to identify, catalog and preserve local, noncommercial and public/community broadcasts.
Some of the historical radio broadcasts that are currently considered lost by radio scholars include the Lindberg kidnapping trial; the John Scopes Monkey Trial; and coverage of the 1920 presidential election between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox.
This has all led to the “Saving America’s Radio Heritage: Radio Preservation, Access, and Education” conference. The conference will feature representatives from more than 100 universities, museums along with archivists coming together to assess the history and record of radio in the United States. Conference events include keynotes and special presentations from a variety of scholars, as well as optional tours of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation and NPR offices and studios on Feb. 25.
The official conference will take place Feb. 26–27 at the Library of Congress in Washington, and at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.