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Radio in 2023: We Look Back to Look Ahead

A four-day conference will explore the history-making events that define the last 100 years of radio

To honor the centennial of the nation’s first radio broadcasts, the 2023 Radio Preservation Task Force will host a conference later this month that will welcome more than 300 archivists, media historians and others, delving deeply into the cultural and historical impact of radio recordings.

The conference, entitled “A Century of Broadcasting: Preservation and Renewal,” will spotlight efforts to locate, save and study a range of radio content and formats, as well as highlight best practices for radio preservation and access. Held April 27-30 at both the Madison Building of the Library of Congress and at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., the event will include conversations with media content groups like Black Women in Radio; the archivist and professor Rick Prelinger, founder of the film storehouse Prelinger Archive; as well as podcast producers like The Kitchen Sisters who focus on story-driven audio programming. 

Sessions and events during the conference include hands-on guidance on how to effectively search for sound recordings in the Library of Congress’ archives, unique ways to utilize radio and sound archives for inclusion in audio segments, best practices in material preservation, a discussion on incorporating Spanish language radio histories into programs, the importance of American folklife archival radio collections and a workshop on media preservation and archaeology. 

The conference will also include radio-focused sessions like one that will explore the 1938 “War of the Worlds” broadcast and the audience reaction that followed — including a discussion of the 1,344 letters sent to the New York City office of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre in the aftermath of the broadcast. Other events include a historical briefing and review of the ham radio industry, a historical primer on Smithsonian-produced radio and a listening party that will highlight an hour’s worth of curious and rare radio excerpts. 

A pdf detailing the sessions and events of the conference is available here. Registration for the event is open now.

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