Introducing U of M Radio On Your Historic Dial

From University of Minnesota Archives

By Karen Obermeyer-Kolb

As mentioned in a previous post “Reel to Reel,” University Archives received grant funding to digitize 2,000+ tapes of recorded audio held in our collections. These past couple months have been busy hiring a Project Archivist (That’s me!), selecting tapes for digitization, shipping them to the outside vendor, and now we are in stages of receiving the digital files and preparing them for online access!

Unidentified man with KUOM microphone. University of Minnesota Radio and Television Broadcasting records, University Archives
Unidentified man with KUOM microphone. University of Minnesota Radio and Television Broadcasting records, University Archives

Launching U of M Radio on Your Historic Dial

Today we are launching our U of M Radio on Your Historic Dial podcast based on the new materials. It will be posted biweekly here on the From the Archivist blog and is available on iTunes and Google Play. Below you will find the first episode, you can listen in the browser here and read the script below.

Episode 1: Intro to the Collection

You are listening to U of M Radio on Your Historic Dial Podcast and this is episode 1: Intro to the Collection. I’m the project archivist, Karen, here at University Archives and today we’re getting our feet wet by answering a couple questions.

Maybe you’re wondering what is University of Minnesota Radio?

This podcast and this project are not produced by the current campus station, Radio K, although it is their predecessors that we will be talking about, KUOM and WMMR. KUOM, previously under the call letters WLB, was the professional radio station on campus. The University actually received the first radio broadcasting license in the state of Minnesota in 1922, with experiments in broadcasts by F.W. Springer as early as 1912. The station continued their operations until 1993 when they merged with WMMR, which had been the student run campus radio station since the late 40s. They became the station heard on campus today, Radio K, which still broadcasts on the same frequency and under the call letters of KUOM.We also have some recordings in our collection from University Media Resources and Visual Education, which produced University courses over the radio and rebroadcast speeches and commencements across the state.

On to our second question, what is this project?

The project I am working on received funding to get at least 2,000 of our 11,000+ reel-to-reel tape collection digitized which will mean greater access and preservation of the recordings from these organizations of U of M radio. It will mean access because in the near future anyone with internet connection can listen to these tapes and in listening we’ll have a better idea of what is actually on them. As much as we can hope, the archives world knows labels don’t always tell the truth or maybe not the whole truth. In our first batch of digital files I’ve already discovered programs we didn’t know we had because they were recorded on the second half of a tape without being noted on their cases. This project is also a great step towards preserving these historic documents because the unfortunate truth is physical materials deteriorate for many reasons. We do keep our audiovisual collections in cold storage which prevents, or at least slows down, much of this, but with digital technologies we can have copies that don’t require outdated equipment or harm the tapes on repeated playback and they can be saved in multiples on local servers as well as backups. We could spend hours talking about digital preservation and digitization, but let’s focus on our radio dial.

And so, last question, what will this podcast actually be about?

As the title suggests it is about U of M radio and getting its voice heard again. We hope to add awareness of our new digital files and have some fun adding context, highlighting award-winning educational programs, and enjoying biographical sketches and interviews of great people, particularly great Minnesotans.

In that spirit I thought in this first episode I would give just a small sample of the variety of content we will explore over the next few months. Since the tapes we have been digitizing span from the 1940s through the 1980s I am going to introduce you to the collection through the decades of radio on campus. In the 40s you might have heard these wartime to theatrical sounding introductions for the program “The World We Want” and “Tales of Minnesota,” a program broadcast in celebration of the state’s territorial centennial.

And in the 50s, “Minnesota Mid-Century” was a 13-part program produced especially for the University’s anniversary.

In the 60s and 70s we’ll find many faculty interviews on the program “Emeritus” and heated discussion topics on “Confrontation” that were featured on the University Television Hour and their radio rebroadcasts.

I just love the musical entries to those two programs. In the 70s we also have the Minnesota School of the Air programming in its last decade.

“People Worth Hearing About” provided biographical vignettes of minorities and women that might be overlooked by history books, but were indeed important to America. It was just one of the many programs produced and written for school children of all ages to teach them about local and international people, history, sciences, music and a whole lot more. Although the School of the Air programming ended in the late 70s, KUOM and WMMR continued with more contemporary topics and discussions with programs like “The Hour,” a student-run program hosted by Larry Davenport, and “Minnesota Issues” with host, Arthur Naftalin.

And that brings us to the end of the decades tour as the two stations merge and become the Radio K entity that we know today. That’s all I have for this episode. As I said this is just a sample of the variety of programs we will have digitized, hopefully your curiosities have been piqued. I promise this was just the teaser and you will get to hear more of the actual episodes in our upcoming podcasts and soon the digital recordings will be available on UMedia for you to browse and listen to in their entireties.

I look forward to turning the dial back with you next time to the 1970s where we will listen in on an interview with Ada Deer in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Thanks for tuning in!

The U of M Radio on Your Historic Dial Podcast is produced every other week for your enjoyment. Subscribe or download on iTunes so you don’t miss another moment of historic Minnesota radio.

If you enjoy our clips and want to hear or learn more, go to www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives and search KUOM in the collections guides.

Digitization of University Archives recordings was financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Karen Obermeyer-Kolb is a project archivist for the University of Minnesota Archives. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.

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