Eric Saxon, Public Broadcasting Fellow at KOPN

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KOPN’s transmitter, located east of Columbia, MO

Greetings gentle reader, I’m Eric Saxon, a Masters of Information and Library Science student specializing in archives at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and part of the second cohort of the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF). This summer, I embarked on a deep tape diving expedition at the radio station, KOPN.

KOPN 89.5 FM, community radio from Columbia, Missouri, broadcasts to antennas throughout the central part of the state and via online at kopn.org. KOPN has transmitted information and music since 1973 AD. As part of the PBPF mission to record local histories across the nation, I set out to discover Columbia and KOPN as it existed in the first twenty or so years of the station, through a media format heretofore unfamiliar to me, the ¼ in. audio tape reel.

The idea was to give these audio reels new life through digital preservation, and, subsequently, new access points to the history of community radio in Columbia, MO in the era of the ¼ in. magnetic tape.

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A ¼ in. magnetic audio tape reel

What I ended up recording is only a small piece of this history, but the audible trace there tells a story of a community radio station being born out of the progressive ethos of the 1960s, open to and actively exploring all available ideas during the 1970s, and incompletely mutating into new wave ideals of the 1980s. During the era of the magnetic tape, KOPN filled a void in mid-Missouri left by mainstream broadcast radio and television, serving across an intersection of race, class, gender, style, sexuality, attitude, and musical preference.

The collection is particularly strong in broadcasts that represent feminist discourse and practice of the time, and my predecessor (Rebecca Benson, PBPF Spring 2018 Fellow) had already begun work that focused on feminist community radio. Having inherited her excellent start to the project, I built upon the theme and expanded it to include live music broadcasts and a wide range of programming, all under the umbrella of feminist community radio.

To convey an idea of this breadth, some titles of the audio broadcasts I digitized include Betty Friedan in Columbia (1973); Don Cooper Live at KOPN (1973); Consciousness Across the Void (1973); Angela Davis in Columbia (1974); Political Gayness (1974); National Women’s Music Festival (1975); The End of “Alternative Radio” on WGTB (1976); Off Our Backs (1976); The Fabulish Winotones Live (1977); Numerology (1978); The Booty Band: Demo Tape (1978); Reasonably Polite New Wave (1981); Program on Lesbian Separatism (1981); DuChamp Live at the Blue Note (1981); Bella Azbug at MU (1984); Gloria Kaufman, “The Politics of Humor: A Feminist View” (1992);  City Council Meetings; and discussions by the Women’s Health Collective.

I transferred only a few reels from the 1990s to a digital format, and none from the 2000s. (By that time, the station had switched to digital machines.) However, a quick listen to KOPN today will tell you that the community values and open radio format there in the beginning continue to be the guiding forces of the station.

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Kansas City new wave band, DuChamp. Handmade collage on tape reel box.

The digitization process not only transferred content but also often recorded the unique physical characteristics of the tape and its interaction with the reel-to-reel tape machines, which, in the University of Missouri – Columbia KOPN Digitization Station’s case, are the Studer A807 (mono) and the Studer B67 (stereo). These were hooked up to a PC and a Mac desktop computer, respectively, where both utilized the audio editing software, Audacity. I could have removed some tape hiss, a sizzle of magnetic particles here and there, and other imperfections, but I left in all but the most egregious content obfuscators, not only to digitize as much as possible in the time allotted, but also as an aesthetic choice and to preserve the unique qualities of the tape medium itself.

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The Studer A807

Emancipating the tape reels from their media-specific obscurity required multiple other steps, with some reels needing more TLC and resuscitation than others. After vigilant cleaning of the machines between reels, this process might entail repairing splices that popped off during the recording process, adding leader tape to the heads and tails of reels, re-housing tapes with broken parts, periodic demagnetizing of the tape machines, untangling and re-spooling tape that had become curled and twisted, and baking/dehydrating tapes exhibiting “sticky-shed syndrome” where deteriorating binder material becomes unfixed in the tape path and gums up the machine’s moving parts. In addition to the more physical aspects of the project, there was also record creation for each reel, inventory production, metadata researched and added, checksum generation, audio file conversion, and ingest into the mothership servers at WGBH.

Although I worked independently, at every stage I had a network of experts and mentors to turn to when encountering an obstacle, from the immersion week of audiovisual preservation training in Boston to the final handoff of the files. Thanks go out to the amazing folks at WGBH and all involved in immersion week, including George Blood and Jackie Jay for introducing me to legacy A/V equipment, all my fellow Fellows, host mentor Jackie Casteel and everyone at KOPN, faculty mentor Dr. Sarah Buchanan and the scholars at MU’s Allen Institute, local mentor Jim Hone, and every one else involved in this far-reaching project.

Going forward, I’m excited to bring forth more untold and seldom heard stories from their various limbos, utilizing what I learned as a PBPF fellow to help make a more complete historical record that is inclusive of the entire spectrum of human experience.

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Minimal audio preservation setup: computer, reel-to-reel tape machine, human

Written by Eric Saxon, PBPF Summer 2018 Cohort

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About PBPF

The Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF), funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, supports ten graduate student fellows at University of North Carolina, San Jose State University, Clayton State University, University of Missouri, and University of Oklahoma in digitizing at-risk materials at public media organizations around the country. Host sites include the Center for Asian American Media, Georgia Public Broadcasting, WUNC, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, and KOPN Community Radio. Contents digitized by the fellows will be preserved in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The grant also supports participating universities in developing long-term programs around audiovisual preservation and ongoing partnerships with their local public media stations.

For more updates on the Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship project, follow the project at pbpf.americanarchive.org and on Twitter at #aapbpf, and come back in a few months to check out the results of their work.

 

World Teachers’ Day 2018

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World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5th to commemorate the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

As World Teachers’ Day aims to focus on appreciating, evaluating, and improving the educators of the world, public broadcasting has brought these concerns to the public for further consideration. Here is a brief selection of clips to recognize the ambition of teachers, as well as public broadcasting’s programming as a primary and secondary resource.

Educational Programs Available Online

National Educational Television Special Collection (1952-1972)

net_catalog.jpgThe National Educational Television (NET) Collection consists of more than 10,000 television programs from non-commercial TV stations and producers from 1952-1972 on public affairs, social issues, arts, culture, the humanities, science, and education. The collection includes public affairs documentaries and discussions covering the black freedom struggle, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and issues such as poverty, student activism, radicalism, privacy, the environment, the elderly, and welfare. The programs in this collection were created for television broadcast, as well as classroom and adult educational uses.

Search the collection: http://americanarchive.org/special_collections/net-catalog

School Desegregation from WGBH’s Say Brother Series (1974)

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This program focuses on school desegregation and the quality of education in Boston 1974. Discussion includes students, parents, and community activists held within Jeremiah E. Burke High School. First program of the 1974 season.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog?q=cpb-aacip%2F15-9gq6r236&utf8=%E2%9C%93&f%5Baccess_types%5D%5B%5D=online

Sex Bias in Education from WNED’s Women Series (1974)

 

 

This episode features a conversation with Judy Wenning and Phyllis AlRoy. Wenning was the former President of NY N.O.W and Coordinator of National NOW Women and Sports Task Force. She was a teacher and worked as a feminist therapist at NY City College and in private practice. AlRoy was a member of “Women on Words and Images,” a feminist consulting firm in Princeton, New Jersey, and is the co-author of “Dick and Jane As Victims.”

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_81-37hqc39r

Denver Public School Prime Time Project from Rocky Mountain PBS (1981)

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This show is from a weekly series to create public awareness of the educational opportunities in the Denver Public Schools and to encourage the cooperative efforts of home and community to achieve excellence in education.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_52-91fj7068

Front Street Weekly: Public vs Private Schooling from Oregon Public Broadcasting (1984)

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In the choice between private and public, this episode focuses on why Oregon parents are choosing private over public school for their children in 1984.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_153-07gqnmcc

Arkansas School for the Deaf from Arkansas Educational TV Network (1994)

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This documentary describes the courses and programs at the Arkansas School for the Deaf. The documentary is composed of interviews with school administrators and teachers, along with footage and photographs of students in classrooms, around campus, and at special events. Transcript included!

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_111-4298sn90

Primary and Secondary Resources in the Archive

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) contains more than 50,000 items of digitized public broadcasting programs and original materials. Over 35,000 items of these programs are available online and the importance of these news casts, raw interviews, documentaries, radio shows etc. serve as primary and secondary sources to American history, both on the local and national level.

Below is AAPB’s Informational Flyer available for download. This flyer gives an overview of the AAPB, its collection, and accessibility to students and teachers.

With over 35,000 items of public radio and television programs from 120 particiation stations, AAPB’s collection captures historical moments across chronological and geographic spectrums. The AAPB staff and guest researchers have curated Exhibits that include coverage of the Watergate hearing, civil rights movements, climate change, and more!

The AAPB has also organized Special Collections that highlight valuable series within collections. These include raw interviews from Eyes on the Prize, Ken Burns’ Civil War Series, and American Expereience documentaries. Often times, only minutes of these interviews make it into the final cut of programs. On the AAPB, the public has access to interviews from start to finish. For example, from the Eyes on the Prize Special Collection, the public can watch Rosa Parks give her account of history between the production crew’s cues and director’s coaching off-screen.

We hope you enjoy and can make use of these resources!

AAPB Informational Flyer

The AAPB Informational Flyer is available for download and contains an overview of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, its collection, and accessibility in the classroom. Feel free to share with students, teachers, and colleagues!

Download here: AAPB_Informational_Flyer.pdf

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Curated Exhibits

American Archive of Public Broadcasting staff and guest curators have created exhibits of selected recordings that focus on themes, topics, and events of cultural and historical significance. In these exhibits, curators contextualize digitized primary and secondary source public television and radio materials. Each curated set of selected recordings present a diversity of perspectives concerning the exhibit’s focus. As a result, AAPB exhibits often illuminate how public broadcasting stations and producers have covered the exhibit’s theme.

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Special Collections

Some notable collections are featured here in Special Collections. Each Special Collection finding aid provides detailed information about the content, such as its creator, recommended search strategies, and related resources. These are unedited interviews from programs that often only include minutes of the original interviews.

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Written by Ryn Marchese, AAPB Engagement and Use Manager

AAPB Releases Experimental API

This blog post was shared by Chuck McCallum, AAPB Developer at WGBH.

With the most recent release, the AAPB now has a public API. It’s an experiment at this point, but documentation is available, and we’ve put up a few examples. For example, you can explore coverage of different topics over the years, or see how coverage changes in different parts of the country. Let us know if you build anything interesting!

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Mark your calendars: Access to historic public broadcasting just one month away!

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Mark your calendars for the culmination of two years of development and collaboration on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting!

On Tuesday, October 27 at 3pm ET, AAPB staff will host a webinar marking the official launch the AAPB Online Reading Room!

Over the past two years, the AAPB team has worked closely with participating organizations, web developers, and legal counsel from WGBH, the Library of Congress and fellows from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School with the goal of providing access to historic public media content digitized through the AAPB initiative. In October, we will make available thousands of public television and radio programs that help tell the story of local communities in the last half of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st. This rich source of historic audiovisual material will be made available for research, educational, and informational purposes, freely accessible by scholars, researchers, students, educators, filmmakers and kids of all ages.

We hope that you will join us at our launch event webinar, during which we will share examples of some of the programs that have been made available in the Online Reading Room, demonstrate new features and functionalities, answer questions and ask for your feedback.

To register for the webinar, follow this URL: http://wgbh1.adobeconnect.com/aapb-orr-webinar/event/registration.html