"It began with a box of moldy old magnetic tapes found in the basement. . ."
This audio archive began its life as a way to save my life, a part of it, anyway. After nearly fifteen years of benign neglect, I started a serious basement cleaning project. Among the things I found were two cardboard storage boxes filled with old 15-inch reels of quarter-inch two-track audio tape. They were pretty much the last remaining vestiges of my work as a young radio journalist in the 1970s.
A number of reels had a dusty green mold growing on them. It was like looking at the inside of a dreadful tomb. The moisture-damaged boxes were collapsing. I had nothing to play them on. No way to tell if they could be saved. I didn’t know what to do.
In what I took to be a providential sign, at almost the exact same moment an email arrived from someone who identified himself as Kyle Wesloh, Director of Media Production at Minnesota Public Radio, once the home of the same young radio journalist 35 years earlier.
Kyle explained that archivists at MPR had found a copy of one of my programs, a program featuring sound and documenting the plight of Hmong and Cambodian refugees at squalid camps on the border of Thailand. He said it had moved them to tears. He wanted me to know they were making it available for online streaming and he invited me to lunch.
The MPR Archive staff was wonderful. I mentioned I had found a box of “lost tapes” and they–Margaret Bresnahan and Scott Adamson–offered to clean them up an give them a proper home. They actually seemed enthused. In the end, they baked the tapes, restored them for proper storage in their temperature- and humidity-controlled vault—and they gave me high-definition digitized copies.
Most of those radio features live again here on the VAULT page, along with descriptions and an audio player. Just click on the player then listen…and imagine. They were all recorded with state-of-the-art equipment for transmission over FM signals meeting the highest standards of the day.
Some of them may also be found at the MPR Archive web page, along with other good stuff.
If you note the broadcast dates, you will see a storytelling style evolve over time.
If you like what you hear, check out the Classics and Storytelling Online pages as well. They highlight some of the early work done by pioneering radio producers that inspired today’s acoustic storytelling, as well as samples of some of the best work currently being produced.
If possible, play back on a system with good speakers or quality headphones. You will be rewarded, trust me.