I love the National Recording Registry.
Each year the Library of Congress identifies (by direction of Congress) certain recordings that have been identified as “cultural, artistic and historical treasures to be preserved for future generations.” This week the Librarian of Congress put out the list.
Radio again contributes, most notably this year with “Gang Busters,” which aired from 1935 to 1957. Here’s how the Library described it:
“The radio crime drama series ‘Gang Busters’ was the creation of Phillips H. Lord, producer of the successful ‘Seth Parker’ series. Capitalizing on the public’s fascination with gangsters, Lord based his new show on true crime stories, going so far as to obtain the cooperation of the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. ‘G-men,’ as the series was known initially, premiered in mid-1935, but the FBI’s enthusiasm waned quickly and its cooperation diminished. Revised as ‘Gang Busters,’ the show remained on the air until the late 1950s. The program’s spectacular opening, which included sirens, police whistles, gunshots and tires screeching, inspired the slang expression, ‘come on like gangbusters!'” (Depicted here is an image circa 1936 from “A Pictorial History of Radio” by Irving Settel published by Citadel Press in 1960 and provided by the Library.)
Also making the list was NBC Radio’s coverage of Marian Anderson’s recital at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. “Though brief newsreel excerpts of her brilliant performance have become familiar and even iconic since that time, the contemporary impact of this live, continuous radio coverage cannot be underestimated, and it is now our most complete documentation of this key event in the struggle for civil rights,” the organization wrote.
And there’s a 1943 broadcast of “The Mary Margaret McBride Program” with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, left. The show is described as “a fine example of McBride’s widely heard and highly influential afternoon radio program at the peak of the host’s fame.
As a talk-show host, McBride (shown at right) pioneered the unscripted radio interview.” This 1938 Zora Neale Hurston photo by Carl Van Vechten is from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library; the McBride image is from the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
Read the entire list here.
The Library is identifying and preserving the best existing versions of these recordings and will house them in its new Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va. And I think that’s great.