The January 1941 launch of the Radio Research Project marked the initial foray of the Library of Congress 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. As the United States had just entered World War II, some of the programs addressed the war effort. 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). The program continued until February 1942.
The Radio Research Project Manuscript Collection presents the manuscripts from this project, including scripts and drafts for scripts. While the presentation does not include recordings of the broadcasts, examples of recordings used as source material for the radio programs can be found among the materials put online as part of other digital collections. Two recordings of complete programs are available. Following are some guides to connecting available recordings with the scripts in the collection.
The Radio Research Project Collection documents an interesting adventure of the Library of Congress into radio broadcasting during a time when World War II was uppermost in the minds of the American people. It includes a wide assortment of scripts for information programs, radio plays, and programs that mixed entertainment with education. More than that, as can be seen by the above examples, it complements material in other collections online and so provides interesting opportunities for exploring across digital collections.
From the Collection’s Website:
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.