Directed by archivist Andy Lanset, 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 Museum of Modern Art's 1951 exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by French artist Henri Matisse nearly didn't happen. In this recording, broadcast over WNYC on the evening of November 15, 1951 (and with the artist's son in the audience), museum officials discussed the trouble the museum had in receiving the artworks and the importance of the materials presented.
It's always exciting when we turn up an important long lost recording. In this case, the unlabeled flip side of one of Mayor La Guardia's talks had half-a-show that's not been heard for 67 years. Hailing from February 14th, 1944, we hear two friends get together to share some music with each other and WNYC's listeners. And what better venue than the station's annual American Music Festival, eleven days of studio performances and concerts around the city dedicated to home-grown music and talent? Talent indeed. Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, a renowned folksinger and bluesman, performed with pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax.
The publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times in 1971 caused more than a commotion --it precipitated the first of the "credibility gaps" between the US government and the American public. Listen to a interview with Sidney Zion, shortly after he broke the story on Daniel Ellsberg supplying the documents to the paper.
Before achieving national acclaim for her exposé of the chemical industry, Silent Spring (1962), marine biologist and nature conservationist Rachel Carson wrote prolifically about the world of the ocean. Her sea trilogy, Under the Sea Wind (1941), The Sea Around Us (1951), and The Edge of the Sea (1955), quickly made her a New York Times bestselling author and a literary star.
Tyne Daly appears in the Leonard Lopate Show this week to speak about her portrayal of legendary diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Tony award-winning “Master Class.” Listen to this George Jellinek tribute to Callas in the WQXR show The Vocal Scene, aired just six days after the death of the great singer.
Philip Levine is set to become the nation's Poet Laureate this Fall, but he already was WNYC's Poet in Residence back in 2003. Listen to Levine read William Matthews' "Mingus at the Half Note," and how the poem relates personally to him.
The author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) worked with WNYC producer Marty Goldensohn on a 1998 series known as Reports on the Afterlife. A year earlier, Vonnegut explained these reports would come as a result of "controlled near-death experiences."
It's summertime in New York, which means theater lovers all over the city have been scrambling to get tickets to the Public Theater's near-daily Shakespeare in the Park performances. Today we celebrate the tradition with two archival recordings from the WNYC/Municipal Archives collection featuring Joseph Papp, founder of the Public Theater (and, later, Joe's Pub).
Mayor La Guardia's weekly Talk to the People is one of our favorite programs here in the New York Public Radio Archives. It was broadcast every Sunday from January 1942 until he left office in December 1945. The primary purpose of these broadcasts was to keep New Yorkers up-to-date on the city administration and services.
Surprise Yourself. Take the Test!
Woody Guthrie left California and arrived in New York City early in 1940. By summer he was making his first appearance on WNYC, on Henrietta Yurchenco and Paul Kresh's second Adventures in Music program on July 13. The show's theme was folk music of the mountains and the plains, featuring Jim Garland, Sarah Ann Ogan and Guthrie, who was introduced as "a modern troubadour who sings as he pleases and makes up his own tunes as he goes." Guthrie performed "Hobo Blues," "Dusty Old Dust," and "Tom Joad."
WNYC music critic, reviewer, audiophile and host Edward Tatnall Canby (1912-1998) began his nearly 25-year stint at WNYC in 1947. His show, The New Recordings, was described that first year as "a program of wide-ranging comment on music in general and the new records in particular." It was based on his weekly column in The Saturday Review. The name of the program was changed and is probably best recalled as Recordings, E.T.C.
Robert Sonkin and Charles Todd were working at the City College Department of Public Speaking when they decided to spend their summer vacations in 1940 and '41 at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) camps of central California. With the help of Alan Lomax, their project was underwritten by the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. Carrying a "portable" 50-pound Presto disc cutter, they recorded cowboy songs, traditional ballads, square dance calls, camp council meetings, storytelling sessions and the personal experiences of the Dust Bowl refugees who lived in the camps. Drawing from more than 200 field recordings, the folklorists produced the above documentary for WNYC in 1942, one of three in a broadcast series called Songs of the Okies.
On July 2, 1946, David Randolph began a series of weekly broadcasts on WNYC called Music for the Connoisseur, later known as The David Randolph Concert.*
On his fourth broadcast, he surveyed the subject of humor in music. With that, David pioneered the thematic radio broadcast devoted to a single musical subject with commentary. Above, you can listen to the full broadcast of "Composers' Senses of Humor," David's 375th show that aired in June, 1954.
The programs were later syndicated nationally on the 72-station network of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). The broadcasts garnered four Ohio State University Awards as "the best programs of music and commentary in the nation," and aired for 33 years. They also resulted in invitations from 23 publishers to write a book, and This Is Music: A Guide to the Pleasures of Listening was published by McGraw-Hill in 1964. It was described by the New York Times as "one of the best of the year."
The story of the Four Chaplains seems largely unknown now, but throughout the 1940’s and 50’s their story served as a symbol of bravery and sacrifice to many. In 1948, February 3rd was declared Four Chaplains Day by a unanimous vote of Congress, and the chaplains were mentioned in President Eisenhower’s famous 1953 “Back to God” speech. The docudrama presented here originally aired on Memorial Day 1950.
The Brooklyn Bridge is celebrating its 128th anniversary this week by undergoing heavy rehabilitation and causing problems for late-night borough-hoppers, a drastic change from its 60th anniversary celebrations, when the Bridge reminisced on WNYC with Public Works Commissioner Irving Huie about its grand opening and the changes it brought to Manhattan and Brooklyn.