The Library of Congress has acquired the full body of Jim Metzner’s work, including photographs, handwritten journals, podcasts, storybooks, alongside his thousands of recordings.
The radio producer and sound recordist has long explored and celebrated the universe of sound around the world, most famously in his nationally-distributed, daily radio series “Pulse of the Planet,” which recently concluded on public and commercial radio after 34 years.
The acquisition commenced shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. In total, the collection holds approximately 28,000 mixed material items from the 1970s to 2019, according to the Library of Congress.
“We are excited to have Jim Metzner’s remarkable recordings in our collection,” said Matt Barton, curator of recorded sound at the library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. “They include soundscapes of every description from around the world and interviews with scientists, artists and indigenous peoples. Whereas many recordists focus entirely on a single subject — nature, music or science — Metzner’s recordings convey a full spectrum of human experience accompanied by the vast array of sounds from the natural world.”
Metzner worked in all of the portable sound recording formats from the 1970s to the present. The Library of Congress says he’s recorded more 200 reels of ¼-inch tapes, 2,000 audio cassettes in the 1970s and 1980s, 1,000 DAT (digital audio tapes) and digital Minidiscs in the 1990s and has created nearly 100,000 sound files with the cutting-edge digital recording gear of the last two decades.
The digital preservation of Metzner’s work at the library has only just begun. A finding aid to the paper portion of his collection has been completed, and it provides a general guide to the breadth and depth of the recordings that will eventually be available online.
“He has traveled and recorded widely, documenting many soundscapes, individuals and events around the U.S. and the world, from a Berber wedding festival in Morocco to the Japanese Stock Exchange to New York’s Saratoga racetrack,” said the Library of Congress in a press release.
“The incredible variety and beauty of the soundscapes of our world remind us that we are part of this chorus,” Metzner said in the release. “We have a role to play as listeners empowered to act, to help keep the planet pulsing. I’m deeply honored that the recordings I’ve made over the years will be kept in perpetuity at the Library, so that a taste of the wonders of sound will continue to speak to present and future generations.”
Metzner has received numerous broadcasting honors from such organizations as the American Institute of Biological Science, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the American Psychological Association, the Broadcast Industry Conference and the Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation.
More about Jim Metzner’s collection, including links to some of his recordings, can be found on the Library of Congress’ website.