AAPB Debuts New Exhibit “Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting”

pennstationhabs
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has launched a new digital exhibit titled “Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting.” Historic preservation is more than just saving old buildings from the bulldozer. Histories can be shared or silenced depending upon the preservation of places that represent a larger story. AAPB Digital Exhibits Intern Kara Zelasko uncovers how people have used public broadcasting to advocate, negotiate, or protest historic preservation efforts across America. Kara is currently a public history graduate student at Northeastern University interested in exploring history as a tool for placemaking and community engagement.

Using a diverse range of public radio and television content from 1950 – 2012, more than 100 digitized, historic public broadcasting programs, local news reports, radio call-in shows, and interviews document the important relationship historic structures have fostered between people and their neighborhoods. These visual and audio records digitized and preserved by the AAPB reveal the ways people have used or rejected preservation in the ever-changing American landscape to share local and national histories, illuminating the ways Americans have envisioned their communities through buildings and sites that connect past to present.

“Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting” is accessible online at http://americanarchive.org/exhibits/historic-preservation.

Listen to sample recordings from the exhibit…

Bill Inge, host of WILL’s radio call-in broadcast “Focus,” asks Richard Moe “how do we decide what buildings are worth saving?” Moe, then president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, answers that the decision essentially lies within the community and what will best serve its current and future needs. This answer underlines the struggle historic preservationists encounter between saving a building to share the past while also serving the community of the present. Listen to the full episode here.

This segment from New Jersey Nightly News explores the Victorian buildings that have come to define Cape May’s community. The interview reveals how Cape May, like many other places, have come to recognize the economic incentive in preserving buildings and landscapes that speak to the neighborhood’s character. Watch the full segment here.

This interview from South Carolina Educational Television’s “Connections” discusses the disappearing cabins of enslaved people in South Carolina.  Historic preservation can be a way to uncover marginalized stories that have been previously ignored. This record and others found in the exhibit reveal how histories have been both erased and uncovered in the American landscape over time. Watch the entire episode here.

Meet Lily Troia, AAPB Cataloging Intern & Public Media Junkie

The following is a guest post by Lily Troia, AAPB Cataloging Intern.

Exploring the WGBH Vault!
Exploring the WGBH Vault!

Hi. My name is Lily Troia and I am a public media junkie. I will admit, it is a bit of a problem. The first thing I do when traveling to any new town is find the local radio affiliate for my fix of daily news. I frequently cry along to This American Life, sit in my parked car laughing hysterically to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’s antics, and I am certain Antiques Roadshow curtailed more than one family fight over the remote during my childhood.

I blame my mom and dad, ultimately, for a northern Wisconsin upbringing entrenched in public media. In the expanse of the rural Northwoods, commercial radio and static occupied most of the airwaves, with one local NPR-affiliate, WOJB, broadcast off a nearby Ojibwe reservation, serving as a beacon of independent thought and music for our small community. Cable was a luxury not yet accessible to remote country residents in the 1980s, and since my back-to-the-lander family couldn’t entertain the idea of a satellite dish, our viewing options included only NBC and PBS, with the occasional blurry-screened ABC when snowmobile traffic was reduced (seriously). Thus, I was the kid carrying my parents’ Wisconsin Public Television member tote bag to the summer pool, raised on a diet of Sesame Street, Square One, and 3-2-1 Contact in an era of Nickelodeon.

Decades later I found myself collaborating professionally with Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television on a regular basis. A classical music performer throughout my youth, I studied ethnomusicology at Northwestern University, yet felt disconnected from the cloistered world of academia, and eventually turned my musical interests to the business world. While running my own music management firm in Minneapolis, I produced numerous live and recorded projects, and frequently contributed content to MPR as a music and arts culture commentator. These experiences further solidified my lifelong love of and dedication to public media. Now back in school, pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Science at Simmons College, I have the unique opportunity to apply my music and humanities background in the arena of preservation and access, synthesizing my passion for scholarship and public service.

Life occasionally delivers instances of perfect serendipity; joining the American Archive of Public Broadcasting feels like such an instance. It truly is a professional dream to work on such a socially vital, dynamic project. Already in my brief time cataloging archival content from member stations across the country, I have learned about an influx of Mexican immigrants to Wyoming in the 1990s, listened to a decades-old KUT broadcast featuring Eliza Gilkyson, and discovered that Oregon hipster culture began long before Portlandia, in the form of a 1985 municipally-sponsored beard-growing contest. In a time when public media is forced to fight for basic funding–my Wisconsin stations are currently facing potential demise–ensuring the longevity and availability of this immeasurably valuable, cultural material has never been more important. What an inspiration to be at an organization like WGBH, committed to protecting and providing access to these historical gems that document our diverse American stories.