As project manager for the Inventory Project, I have the privilege of speaking with stations and archives across the country about their invaluable archival media assets. It’s a thrilling experience to speak with station staff in Alaska who are passionate about preserving interviews with the first 6 governors of Alaska, to discuss the project with programming executives in upstate New York who suspect their warehouse may contain early Frank Sinatra, and to brainstorm with archivists at a radio station about how to inventory famous classical music performances in Texas. I’ve even heard tell of possible Beatles recordings…
All of these are fabulous gems of modern American history and culture, but what really excites our Inventory Project team is the local history. We are finding that public media stations have had the foresight to save vast collections of local materials — often in the face of budget and storage cuts and for history’s sake alone. In Springfield, MA we saw tapes labeled “Polish Heritage Project”, in Missouri we hear tell of a program on “grave dowsing,” in Alaska they have recordings in Eskimo languages, and in Louisiana they are documenting post-Katrina reconstruction.
The purpose of this project is to inventory these materials in order to preserve them. The preservation of these local stories is what motivates our WGBH team on a daily basis. Along with public media’s recent focus on local journalism, the American Archive Initiative has the opportunity to shed light on the rich local history of our communities, to empower local organizations as stewards of these collections, and to mine this great American Archive for new and exciting projects!
If you are thinking about applying for an Inventory grant but are unsure of the value of those old tapes in the basement, rest assured there are treasures to be found and wonderful stories to be told. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns and please continue to share your discoveries with us!