Saving our history and memories, one bit at a time.


The future of our history is not assured.

In public radio, the great work by StoryCorps has done remarkable things in getting people to recall and share their stories.

Encouraging people to share their stories – and record them – is a great way to create history for the future, and to encourage people to share with one another, now.  Facebook?  Perhaps.  But not everyone “gets” facebook…. In a time when few people write letters or diaries, there is a need for alternatives.

There are important stories, already told, all around us.  A number of years ago, I wrote an article for RADIO magazine about saving old content.  

Looking at the article, I see it was written in 2002!  Back then, we were worried about losing valuable material when formats went away.  This has been an ongoing story – and as technology evolves, is getting to be an even greater concern.

One of the anecdotes I cite in the article was the lost tapes of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This week, American Masters on PBS does a documentary workup on the late-night icon. 

But there’s more missing than just details of Mr. Carson’s personal story. Because show was not seen as valuable as a chronicle of the era, most of the recordings of the show from 1962 to 1972 were erased or discarded.  Hundreds of hours of material that we would treasure today are lost, forever.

Today, networks are better at saving material.  But still having the tapes or disks doesn’t mean you can get the recordings back. For example, by 2002, much of TV and Radio media production had switched to digital storage – on networks and computer hard drives.

Even the new fangled “Digital Audio Tape” of the 1980’s and 1990’s was fading away. 

Valuable material is already out there, still sitting on tapes, disks and films that we, increasingly, don’t have machines to play audio and video back from.  But funding for saving archival material on a national basis has been facing challenges. 

For me, in the past 5 years, my personal and professional concerns have been on saving and storing hundreds of hours of personal and professional sights and sounds before they are lost. So, courtesy of ebay and other sources, finding the technology to playback arcane video and audio formats has become a new hobby of sorts, plus finding others who do this kind of work, too.

A find shared by a friend on Facebook, today, reminded me of how important these archives are.   NPR, November, 1982.  A very young staff in the early years of Morning Edition and so much more.  8 hours of NPR from the early days.   Next, we need to put names with all of the faces, since those of us who remember will not be here forever!
 A Day at National Public Radio – C-SPAN Video Library

Thank, you NPR, thank you CSPAN…and take a peek at www.archive.org – they have a remarkable data store of websites from the past 17 years or so.

Saving our history and memories, one bit at a time.

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About sehanley

Musician, journalist, teacher, technologist, consultant & former NPR station manager. A media and entertainment professional, journalist, entrepreneur, technology advocate, educator, student, mentor, manager, and media, musical and theatrical performer. Voice talent and coach for music and spoken word. I also act and sing (mostly jazz, but a lot of experience with choral, classical and musical theater, too). Brass instruments, too, but my AF ofM card lapsed years ago. Heard on the national jazz service, PubJazz, and in the Pittsburgh market on WZUM/Pittsburgh Jazz Channel. I also teach college level courses in media and journalism. I managed the leading NPR/public radio station in Pittsburgh, PA for 16 years, a few years later was GM of the NPR station WBHM in Birmingham, AL. I served for six very busy years on the NPR Board of Directors and have done much volunteer service for national and local organizations in the communities I have been privileged to live and work in. Former NPR Board Member, former President of the Pittsburgh Radio Organization, sometime musician, relentless technology advocate. Opinions expressed are not the viewpoints of any employer or affiliation past or present.
This entry was posted in Carson, CSPAN, DAT, NBC, NPR, PBS, storycorps. Bookmark the permalink.

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