Right now I’m dwelling on college radio’s past, as I prepare my presentation for University of Maryland’s “Saving College Radio” Symposium in two weeks. In connection with an exhibit about the history of student radio station WMUC, this symposium will focus on the importance of (and challenges inherent in) archiving college radio’s history.
I’ve become increasingly interested in college radio history, largely because it’s often such a mystery. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I even became aware of my own college radio station’s lengthy history. Additionally, now that I’m out and about visiting college radio stations and writing about college radio news, I’m often encountering stations for which there’s no easy-to-find history. Many station staff members and volunteers aren’t even aware of the most basic facts, like when a station first launched.
Some schools and radio stations have undertaken impressive projects in which history is being archived and preserved. Tulane University station WTUL recently partnered with a digital archive specialist at the university’s library in order to begin digitizing material from the radio station’s past. That ongoing project is viewable in the WTUL Digital Archive.
Other stations, like WSOU at Seton Hall, regularly send materials to their school archivists in order to ensure that station ephemera is preserved. Many archivists are interested in preserving college radio history and can be quite helpful to both stations and researchers. When I was stumped about the history of student radio at City College of San Francisco, I contacted staff from the school’s Library Archives. They were incredibly helpful and directed me to various resources that proved to be invaluable (I even found press accounts of the station broadcasting news about JFK’s death). Thanks to their help, I spent many days in the Archives at City College, combing through vintage newspapers, catalogs, and files. The archivists also expressed interest in obtaining more materials from the student radio station, which made me realize that many stations may not even think about contacting their campus archivists.
I’ve even had some great success working with archivists from afar. My fascination with the early history of radio at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia finally led me to contact the school library for assistance. I couldn’t believe the amazing resources that their archivists were able to share with me. Even though I’m pretty good at tracking down hard-to-find information, the archivists there were able to point me to collections of student publications that I wasn’t able to find on my own.
My biggest college radio history project has been working on piecing together a more thorough documentation of the history of radio at my alma mater, Haverford College. Back when I started doing my research I felt a bit stymied since I live thousands of miles away from campus. I remember obsessively reading through materials in the library during one of my reunion weekends. It felt like a race against time, as it wouldn’t have been humanly possible for me to make it through every box of materials. Thanks to digitization, I’ve been able to do some of my research remotely. I’ve gotten help scanning yearbooks and newspaper clippings and many incredible vintage photos are already part of the school’s digital archive. Additionally, now that I’ve published some articles about Haverford radio history, more and more alumni have been reaching out to me with stories and artifacts. By the way, Haverford just celebrated the 90th anniversary of the launch of its first student radio station WABQ last fall and there will be some special events to honor that during Alumni Weekend in late May.
Universities generally have an interest in preserving campus history and tales and artifacts from the early days of college radio help to paint a picture of student life across many different eras. I’d love to hear your stories about radio station history. If you are at a station, do you know its history? Has there been a concerted effort to document station history?
FCC Renewal News and LPFM Update:
Congratulations to all of the college radio stations who recently heard word from the FCC that their licenses have been renewed. Yesterday’s Daily Digest (PDF) lists a plethora of freshly renewed college radio station licenses in New England. In other FCC news, there has been a little bit of action of the LPFM front this week, which I covered in yesterday’s college radio-focused LPFM Watch. Additionally, the LPFM application for Manchester Community College (Manchester, CT) was reinstated today. More than 40 new college radio LPFM applications have been granted so far in this recent window.
Upcoming College Radio Events:
April 5-9: BEA2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Broadcast Education Association‘s annual convention and research symposium takes place in Las Vegas in conjunction with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show.
April 11: Saving College Radio Symposium at University of Maryland, College Park. As mentioned above, this one-day conference will focus on the importance of archiving college radio materials and culture.
April 26: UCRN Conference at KCSB at University of California, Santa Barbara. The free day-long conference is open to all California college radio station participants. In addition to panel discussions, a record/tape swap, station swag swap and a tour of both the station and its Special Collections digitization project, there will be a few live performances. Register by contacting KCSB’s General Manager by April 11th. The twice yearly UCRN conferences draw students and college radio volunteers from all over California.
May 31: “Turn On/Turn Off: 90 Years of Radio at Haverford” exhibit reception at Haverford College, Haverford, PA during Alumni Weekend.
June 1: “WABQ, WHAV, WHRC: 90+ Years of Student-Powered Radio at Haverford College” panel discussion at Haverford College, Haverford, PA during Alumni Weekend.
September 27: Columbia College Chicago Radio/Webcast Conference
October 21-25: CMJ Music Marathon in New York City
October 23-25: CBI’s National Student Electronic Media Convention in Seattle
November 15: IBS/Simmons College Radio/Webcasting Conference in Boston
December 6: IBS/Champs Radio/Webcasting Conference in Los Angeles
We cover the culture of college radio every Friday in our College Radio Survivor feature. If you have college radio news to share, please drop us a note at EDITORS at RADIOSURVIVOR dot COM.
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