More than 445 hours of historically significant radio programming preserved
Sandy Rodriguez sat, stunned at what she was hearing.
The Special Collections Metadata Librarian felt transported. The year was 1944. The D-Day Normandy Invasion was just beginning, and journalist George Hicks was reporting from the deck of the U.S.S. Ancon.
Hicks gave his now famous report in a deep, steady voice. In a way, the background noise told the bigger story. Sirens went off, planes whizzed by, people shouted and artillery boomed.
“It’s really captivating. It transports you. Reading what someone is saying is one thing, but hearing what they’re saying takes it to another level,” Rodriguez said.
Often, Rodriguez plays that audio clip for people who want to know about the completion of an 18-month “Humanities Collections and References Resources” grant, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Although it’s just one clip from the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, its historical and emotional impact speaks volumes. And now, thanks to the grant, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Marr Sound Archives has cataloged the collection’s nearly 3,000 sound recordings and digitally preserved more than 445 hours of radio programming.
Rodriguez, student assistants and audio engineer Andrew Hansbrough were responsible for the work. Thanks to their efforts, one of the archive’s most popular collections is available for use by researchers, students and the visiting public.
Arthur Church, Jr. donated the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection to UMKC in 1996. The collection chronicles radio pioneer Arthur B. Church’s involvement with the Kansas City, Mo.-based KMBC radio station. The station played news and entertainment, and the collection is a reflection of that eclectic mix.
Among the highlights are Western swing group turned Hollywood film musical sensation, The Texas Rangers; live performances of the Kansas City Philharmonic; and more than 20 hours of The Brush Creek Follies, a popular barn dance show. Historically significant news items, including CBS’ The World Today featuring John Charles Daly, Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer; speeches by Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Pope Pius XI, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz are also included.
The digital preservation process was a long, but important one. During the war effort, radio stations stopped using metal-based lacquer discs to record their programs for airplay. They switched to a glass-based format, as metals were diverted to production of war material. The glass-based discs did not hold up as well as their metal counterparts.
“The lacquer discs were not intended to be saved and replayed forever, so there is a big push nationally to preserve these types of recordings. This is a very big timely issue right now. This material is at risk, and that’s why we were so glad to preserve it,” Rodriguez said.
Learn more about the project here.