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Glimpsing History Through New Digitized Radio Programs

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting has released a collection of historic radio programs from WRVR(FM)

WRVRA slew of historic radio programs from a well-known public radio station in New York City are now available to stream.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has released a collection of historic radio programs from WRVR(FM), the public radio station once owned by The Riverside Church in New York. This collection includes speeches by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, award-winning documentary coverage of the civil rights movement in Birmingham in 1963, coverage of the Cold War, and material from leaders like Pres. John. F. Kennedy and Indira Gandhi.

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“Making the Riverside Church/WRVR collection accessible through the American Archive of Public Broadcasting website will aid students, teachers, scholars and everyday citizens in exploring contemporaneous perspectives from religious leaders, political figures, artists and thinkers of the day, especially those trying to inform and influence the politics of the period,” said Alan Gevinson, Ph.D., AAPB project director at the Library of Congress.

American Archive of Public Broadcasting, WRVR, Edgar Allen Poe radioThe archive is searchable by genre, topic, date, asset type as well as contributing/producing organization. A search of the performance subcategory, for example, brings up a 1966 recording of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of Red Death,” while a search of event coverage pulls up a 1962 speech by FCC Chairman Newton N. Minow.

It was 1961 when The Riverside Church first put WRVR on the air, playing religious programming and coverage of cultural and higher-education events. The station shifted to an all-news format — along with a single jazz program called “Just Jazz with Ed Beach” — from September 1971 until 1976, when the station was sold.

The station was known for its role as a center of activism and social justice. In 2018, a grant was bestowed by the Council on Library and Information Resources to The Riverside Church and the AAPB to begin the process of digitizing the broadcasts of WRVR. Additional assistance came from the New York City and the AAPB, which is a collaboration between Boston public media producer GBH (formerly WGBH) and the Library of Congress. The project involves the digitization of more than 3,500 audio tapes from the WRVR collection.

The station was awarded a Peabody Award for its entire scope of programming, due in part to its documentary coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Materials in the collection are in a variety of languages including English, Spanish, Hebrew, French, Indonesian, German and Gaelic.

More items are expected to be added to the AAPB archive over the next year as items are digitized.