Media: 70 Years of WGN Radio Audio to Be Archived at Northwestern Libraries
For 100 years, WGN Radio has been a source of all-talk programming that has connected Chicagoland — and well beyond, thanks to the impressive broadcast range of the 50,000-watt station at 720 AM. Its lineup of memorable hosts, long-running cultural programming and avid local sports coverage has enshrined WGN Radio as a cherished companion for generations of listeners in cars and kitchens.
Thanks to a gift from Nexstar Media Group, Inc., parent company of WGN Radio, a 70-year swath of the radio station’s audio archive now resides at Northwestern University Libraries in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections and University Archives.
The archive, with materials covering 1941 to 2011, includes more than 15,000 items, primarily magnetic media (open reel tapes, compact cassettes, continuous-loop “carts,” U-matic videocassettes and VHS tapes) as well as other media such as grooved discs, CDs and minidiscs. The bulk of the audio dates to the 1980s and 1990s, a period of innovation and surging popularity for the station.
The archive contains thousands of hours of audio that will need to be cataloged and, where necessary, digitally preserved before they can be made publicly available, said Scott Krafft, curator of Special Collections at Northwestern.
“It’s a remarkable collection that represents a significant sampling of Chicago history, including local and national news,” he said. “In addition, the voices of WGN Radio’s most popular programs are represented here, making this an important archive for the history of the entire field of radio broadcasting.”
“When WGN first approached us 10 years ago about taking on this collection, I knew the longitudinal coverage of such an archive would be just astounding,” said Sarah Pritchard, dean of Northwestern Libraries. “Our role as a library at a research institution is to collect and preserve culturally important materials like this. The WGN Radio archive will provide a laboratory for future researchers looking at 20th century media as it intersected with Chicago’s cultural and political history.”
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.