May 20, 2022

University of Wisconsin Archivists Working to Digitize Early Recordings of Public Radio in Wisconsin

From The Cap Times/

The project, called Preserving Rural and Women’s Programming on Wisconsin Public Radio, would strive to save recordings of broadcasts that aired on WHA, a station launched by the university in 1917. The precursor to Wisconsin Public Radio was an early example of public service broadcasting: It featured weather forecasts, farming reports, and a “school of the air,” in which children would receive lessons in drawing or writing.

The problem, according to digital and media archivist Cat Phan, is that people can’t listen to the recordings now without putting them at risk. That’s because they’re currently stored on 16 inch-wide aluminum disks covered in a black lacquer, called “transcription disks.” The disks were popular in the golden age of radio for recording broadcasts, but they’re also considered among the most fragile forms of audio preservation.


The UW-Madison Archives launched the WHA project in May, and has already received a $19,664 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources in Washington, D.C. The goal, said Phan, is to figure out a process for digitizing the old broadcasts by focusing on about 250 disks from the collection.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: UW-Madison Archives Receives CLIR Award to Digitize 250 At-Risk Recordings (via U. of Wisconsin Libraries; May 17, 2019)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.