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Collection Radio Research Project Manuscript Collection

About this Collection

The January 1941 launch of the Radio Research Project marked the Library’s initial foray into broadcast media. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and supported by Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, the project created numerous and diverse radio programs primarily relating to American history and folklore, and utilized groundbreaking recording and production techniques. In just over a year of operation, the project staff of Philip Cohen, Joseph Liss, Alan Lomax, Arthur Miller, and Jerome Wiesner wrote and produced the Hidden History series (twenty-six programs, 1941), the Report to the Nation series (two programs, 1941), the Books and the News series (six programs, 1941), The Ballad Hunter series (ten programs, 1941), the documentary series Americans Talk Back (six programs, 1941), "December 9, 1941" (1941), the Regional Series (seven programs, 1942), "Dear Mr. President" (1942), and "Lincoln Speaks to the People and to the Soldiers" (1942).

This digital collection presents manuscript materials generated during the project. Correspondence, ephemera, reports, radio scripts, research materials, and administrative papers give researchers a nuanced understanding of this productive and innovative project. One of the signature programs was "Ledford and Friends," broadcast in May 1942. Scripts in the collection demonstrate how the writers wove a program narrative taken mainly from interviews with a Tennessee farmer named Paul Ledford. The Ledford family and their neighbors were facing displacement by floodwaters rising behind a Tennessee Valley Authority dam. Project staff recorded the interviews onto instantaneous discs using the Library's new mobile recording studio.

While not yet online, the Radio Research Project's nearly 400 source recordings comprise its core. They are found in the following collections: James E. Strates Carnival Collection, Delaware and Maryland Recordings, Radio Research Project Recordings, Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Workers Collection, Man-on-the-Street Interviews Collection, John Langenegger and Arthur Miller Recordings in Wilmington, North Carolina, Dear Mr. President Collection, with related papers in the Alan Lomax Collection. Photographs made during Radio Research Project field trips are online through the Library's Prints and Photographs Division Lomax Collection. The Project's completed audio programs are part of the Library's Recorded Sound Division collections.