WNYC Preservation and Archive Unit: A Rich Broadcasting Legacy
Established in the year 2000, the WNYC Archives are the stations' physical link to its rich and storied past. Directed by Andy Lanset, an archivist and audio preservation specialist, the department provides a central repository for thousands of audio recordings, photographs, memorabilia, reports, news items, program guides, institutional records, and promotional materials. Among its holdings are more than 50,000 recordings in a variety of formats, from early lacquer and acetate discs, to reel-to-reel tapes, to digital audio tapes and compact discs. The archive staff also includes Archive Manager John Passmore, Senior Archivist Marcos Sueiro Bal and Assistant Archivist Ana Cox who comes to us for two years through a generous National Endowment for the Humanities preservation grant. Assistant Archivist Benjamin Houtman is currently with us through July of 2016.
The department was a long time in the making for WNYC. Prior to its founding, no central repository for archival station material existed, and as a result, items were spread throughout departments within the station at its previous location in the Municipal Building. Consolidation and centralization allowed for storage in a dozen rooms on three floors. Now, in our facility on Varick Street, all our collections are conveniently stored in one temperature and humidity controlled room with compact moveable shelving next door to the archive office/lab. An additional 5,000 items are in a climate-controlled storage facility in New Jersey with more on the way as the digitization of the collection proceeds.
Thousands of programs have been identified but only a fraction of these have been fully cataloged. "Basically we've been doing what I call triage cataloging," says the indefatigable Lanset. "Basic information is catalogued so we know what we have and where it is, but much detail work remains."
New items continue to turn up. For example, the department acquired the Cinema Sound news archive and a large collection of WNYC music programs produced and hosted by Edward Tatnall Canby. The department also brings in WNYC material from other outside collections, such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, the University of Maryland, as well as from former producers. With the acquisition of WQXR in October, 2009, the archives has added WQXR materials from their previous broadcast library as well as from former producers. Original WQXR materials and copies have also been added from other institutional collections. Together, we are now known as the New York Public Radio or NYPR Archives
Despite its modest staffing and physical resources, the WNYC Archives have helped document numerous aspects of WNYC's history while keeping it all in a secure place. "Now that we're in the new Varick Street facility, I don't have worry about the air conditioner breaking down and leaks whenever it rains," says Lanset. "So, we can concentrate our time and energy organizing, digitizing, and helping producers get what they need."
Do you have any WNYC-related items? We are still searching for programs, recordings (disc or tape), photos, programs guides, and promotional material. The Archives remains closed to the public as we continue to unpack. You can reach us by phone at: 646-829-4381 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the biggest responsibilities of the department is maintaining this vast library of audio recordings. Here's a snapshot of how it all works, WNYC Preservation and Archive Process.