Morningside Heights, NY – The Council on Library and Information Resources has awarded a grant of $330,000 to digitize, preserve, and make publicly accessible previously unavailable archives of the Peabody Award winning radio station WRVR. Public Radio as a Tool for Cultural Engagement in New York in the 60s and early 70s: Digitizing the Broadcasts of WRVR-FM Public Radio is a joint project between The Riverside Church in the City of New York and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation. The collection includes culturally significant non-commercial programming, including interviews, speeches, and musical interpretations on matters such as civil rights, war, and fine arts, from laypersons to famed scholars, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Pete Seeger.
Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Digitizing Hidden Collections program supports the creation of digital representations of unique content of high scholarly significance. This award will support the preservation and digitization of over 3,502 recordings representing 4,000 hours of programming from WRVR from the 1960s and early 1970s. Owned and operated by The Riverside Church from 1961-1976, WRVR was the first station to win a Peabody for its entire programming, in part for its coverage of the Civil Rights movement in 1963 Birmingham.
In addition to featuring progressive religious and philosophical discussions with Riverside clergy, theologians, and scholars, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., WRVR programming included culturally significant topics, speakers, and performances, such as Langston Hughes’ “Jericho-Jim Crow” directed by Alvin Ailey, and interviews and readings by Robert Frost, John Ashbery, and Allen Ginsberg. The station also featured the program “Just Jazz with Ed Beach,” which collection currently resides at the Library of Congress.
Preservation of these materials will enhance study in many disciplines, including theology/religion, political science, and communications, especially related to American Christianity, homiletics, progressive responses to the Civil Rights movement, contemporary issues of race and sexuality, the cultural impact of the 1960s, and public radio as a tool for cultural engagement and social media precursor.
These recordings will be made publicly available at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH. The AAPB coordinates a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years.
Sample recordings include:
“Back to School in Birmingham; Birmingham: Testament of Nonviolence, Part 4 [1 of 2].” May 1963 Riverside Radio, WRVR
Rev. Robert Polk (Riverside Church) interviews teenagers recently released from jail for participating in the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham. Over 1800 children, some as young as six years old, peacefully protested and were met with fire hoses and police dogs.
“The American People; What is Patriotism, Part 1 [1 of 2].” 1964 Riverside Radio, WRVR
Interviews with various Americans exploring attitudes about patriotism in the middle part of the twentieth century through discussing flag waving, nationalism vs. patriotism, and critically thinking about one’s country.
Arthur Miller. Statement for World Theater Day, March 27, 1963 Riverside Radio, WRVR, Riverside Archives (The Riverside Church)
Arthur Miller remarks on theater’s ability to speak universal truths and understanding in art, and how this particular art form, above many others, informs society’s response to war, politics, freedoms, and all matters of the human condition across nations and cultures.
“Listen! William Sloane Coffin Jr.: Conscience, Protest & War.” Interview on WRVR, March 31, 1968 Riverside Radio, WRVR. Riverside Archives (The Riverside Church)
William Sloane Coffin Jr., chaplain at Yale University (later Riverside Senior Minister, 1977-1987), discusses his indictment for conspiracy to encourage draft evasion and the politics of the Vietnam War; peace activism, civil rights and Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, and how Dr. Coffin’s privilege informs his work as a clergyperson, activist, and American.
About The Riverside Church
Located in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side, The Riverside Church in the City of New York is one of the leading voices of Progressive Christianity, influential on America’s religious and political landscapes for more than 85 years. Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and currently led by The Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, the interracial, interdenominational, and international church has long been a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, President Clinton, the Dalai Lama, and countless others. Visit www.trcnyc.org or find us on social media to learn more about our rich history and the latest news and events.
About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 50,000 hours of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 30,000 programs are available online at americanarchive.org.
WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle, and children’s series. WGBH also is a leader in educational multimedia, including PBS LearningMedia™, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or visually impaired. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards…even two Oscars. Find more information at www.wgbh.org.
About the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States - and extensive materials from around the world - both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.
The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.
About the Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at mellon.org.