This overview of the Library's collections deals with the holdings of the Library in radio. Sound recordings are covered separately. There is by necessity a certain overlap here, as the Library's radio broadcasts are preserved in the form of sound recordings. However, since we regard broadcasting as fundamentally different from sound recording, we have chosen to treat broadcast sound as a separate category.
The Library has nearly three million sound recordings and radio broadcasts, including one million broadcast discs; 1.2 million non-broadcast discs; and 250,000 audiotapes. Presently, there are about 500,000 radio programs. Given the size of the collection and the fact that holdings are not completly cataloged, it is impossible to provide a specific subject breakdown.
Title 17, Chapter 9, Sec. 113 of the Copyright Law mandates the Librarian to establish and maintain an American Television and Radio Archive, and to preserve television and radio programs ..." which are of present or potential public or cultural interest, historical significance, cognitive value, or otherwise worthy of preservation...." No other archive has a governmental directive to collect, and to collect as broadly, as the Library.
The radio collections at the Library of Congress comprise many "special collections," namely donations from radio networks, performers, writers, and producers. The two largest radio collections are those from the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS)
NBC. In 1978 NBC donated 175,000 sixteen-inch lacquer discs to the Library. The collection spans the early 1930's through the late 1960's. The recordings are available for listening by qualified researchers once they have been transferred to audio tape by the Library's Magnetic Recording Laboratory. As of 1990, over 21,000 hours of programming are available for use. Most of the programs transferred to tape thus far fall between the years 1938 and 1954. These include all genres of radio, including comedy, drama, public affairs, music interviews, news, and international shortwave broadcasts.
AFRTS. The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service Collection at the Library of Congress is made up of over 300,000 sixteen- and twelve-inch electrical transcriptions, including AFRTS productions from 1942 to the present. Programming on the recordings is limited to those productions distributed from the AFRTS Los Angeles headquarters. No news broadcasts or local programs, such as DJ broadcasts as heard in Vietnam, are included in the collection.
OWI Collection. Soon after World War II, several thousand instantaneous lacquer discs representing propaganda broadcasts made by the U. S. Office of War Information were transferred to the Library of Congress. Most of this Collection has since been copied onto tape and is available to researchers. The collection includes over 8,000 programs in English, in addition to broadcasts in many other languages.
BBC Collection. The Library is the sole Western hemisphere repository of the British Broadcasting Corporation collection of archival long playing discs, an annually selected group of the most important broadcasts made by the BBC. The collection numbers over 6,000 LPs. The collection includes notable musical programs of the BBC and broadcasts of virtually every major twentieth-century political figure.
National Public Radio Collection. The Library of Congress is the repository for recordings of cultural programming broadcast by NPR since 1971. Tapes are transferred annually to the Library by NPR approximately five years after their broadcast. NPR's news and public affairs programs are housed at the National Archives and Records Administration. The Library's archive consists of several thousand reels of jazz, opera, symphonic music, chamber music, folk music, radio drama and poetry.
WOR Collection. The most recent major radio collection to be acquired by the Library of Congress is that of WOR-AM, New York City. In 1984 RKO General, Inc. donated the complete archives of the flagship station of the Mutual Broadcasting Network. Included in the donation are several thousand sixteen-inch instantaneous transcription discs, the paper archives of WOR, and an outstanding group of materials relating to the radio career of writer-producer Phillips H. Lord.
Among the other radio broadcast collections held are those devoted to a single performer (often donated by that performer) or company.
These include: personal arbitrator A. L. Alexander; the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Arthur Godfrey, commentators Raymond Clapper, Raymond Gram Swing, and H. V. Kaltenborn; singer Jessica Dragonette; accordionist Basil Fomeen; soap operas and variety programs sponsored by the General Foods Corporation; captured broadcasts from Nazi Germany; soprano Frieda Hempel; conductor Andre Kostelanetz; interviewer Larry King; Library of Congress Chamber Music Series Broadcasts; talk programs by Mary Margaret McBride; ET's produced by the C.P. McGregor Company; anthropologist Margaret Mead; Meet the Press; Moral Re-Armament, Inc.; poetry and literature series New Letters on the Air; the Original Amateur Hour; Pacifica Radio; Edwin T. Randall and Friendly World Broadcasting; conductor Wilfred Pelletier; Phil and Evelyn Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra; soprano Helen Traubel; and Voice of America music programs. In the 1950's the Library obtained off-air recordings from CBS and NBC. CBS radio is represented by complete programming from May 13 through May 26, 1957; NBC by October 31 through November 6, 1955. In addition, CBS made periodic gifts of public events radio broadcasts to the Library through the 1960's.
Print Resources. The Library of Congress Manuscript Division holds several important related collections. The Manuscript portion of the WOR Collection is currently held there, where the collection is currently being processed for use by the public. In addition, the library has: a collection of over 5000 CBS radio scripts, donated to the Library in the 1960's; major collections of scripts representing the careers of Goodman and Jane Ace and Fred Allen; and the series Amos 'n' Andy and Vic and Sade. Also, it is through the Manuscript Division that one gains access to radio scripts deposited for copyright between the mid-1920's, when such deposits began, and 1977, the last year that the 1909 copyright law was in effect.
Because there was no U.S. copyright law covering sound recordings until 1972, the Library's initial collection was developed solely through gifts from individuals and corporations. Private collectors have donated thousands of recordings. However, because of this, the collection tends to reflect what has been given to it. It is very strong in certain areas, such as NBC and WOR, but is deficient in others. Our radio collections tend to be very weak in foreign holdings, with a few exceptions, such as the BBC and captured German material. We have little local or contemporary radio.