Recently, at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the too often taken for granted world of radio got four days of undivided attention.
Held April 27-30, 2023, “A Century of Broadcasting: Preservation and Renewal” was presented by the Radio Preservation Task Force, an extension of the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Recorded Sound Section. The RPTF serves as a clearing house that promotes research, preservation, and curation of historical audio.
It was the third national conference of the National Radio Preservation Task Force. The first two were held in 2016 and 2017. A third conference was scheduled for 2020 but was cancelled due to COVID.
The recently reconvened four-day event welcomed over 350 radio scholars and educators who took part in a variety of group sessions and panel discussions. Among the items and topics addressed were the array of radio collections at the Library’s American Folklife Center, radio and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, a discussion of radio archives and literary research and even a talk on the “History of Media History.” Other unique events included a celebration of the work of the great sound pioneer Tony Schwartz, a session on the 30 year history of the LGBTQ+ radio series “This Way Out,” and an examination of the state of Black radio. Other highlights included the participation of the Peabody Awards, NPR, National Geographic, the American Library Association, Storycorps, Black Women in Radio, and the Smithsonian Libraries.
Notable guests at the conference included acclaimed author and radioist Jim Metzner, NPR’s “The Kitchen Sisters,” MSNBC producer Kelsey Desiderio, Radiolab founder Jad Abumrad, and Rick Prelinger, founder of the Prelinger Archive.
Also very much in attendance were the Library’s own Mike Mashon, Matthew Barton, Patrick Midtlyng, Thomas Pease, Laura Jenemann, and Harrison Behl. The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, was also in attendance and introduced the Kitchen Sisters.
Additionally, all discussions and events were open, for free and to the general public.
Along with events held at the Library of Congress, events also took place at the Smithsonian; the Smithsonian also served as one of the sponsors of the event.
According to RPTF Director Josh Shepperd, the conference was a success and a much needed fusion of people, projects and ideas. “It was so vital for people to see each other again after COVID,” he said, “A lot of collaboration emerged from the first conference and it has matriculated into projects, grants and new development in the curriculum.
“Additionally, it’s always important to bring attention to radio preservation, to sound and sound as a cultural object as well as a historical and political one. Conferences like this help unlock the airwaves, show us the ‘hidden histories’ but we can’t do it without cross-sector collaboration.”
[Photos courtesy of Allison Schein Holmes]
For more information related to this blog or any Library of Congress holdings, please see Ask a Librarian, and if you plan to come in to view or listen to any collection items, please reach out to our reference staff in the Moving Image Research Center and the Recorded Sound Research Center.