Written by Larz
Friday, 14 May 2010 18:31
For many decades, Louis “Studs” Terkel has been a Chicago treasure. An actor and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Studs Terkel was best known for his radio work. Terkel
interviewed common people, public figures and celebrities, and delivered verbal history lessons, commentaries and oral works of art for his listeners.
After his death on October 31st, 2008, Terkel’s fans demanded to hear some of his classic radio work, but outside of his albums, very little past recordings seemed available. As it turned out, in 1998, Terkel had donated original tapes of almost 6,000 hours of interviews conducted by him, as heard on Chicago’s WFMT-FM from 1952 to 1997 to the Chicago History Museum. These old tapes, containing approximately 5,500 interviews, are now being carefully preserved and converted to digital media for all to enjoy once again.
This week, the Chicago History Museum, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, announced that the long-lost interviews will soon be given new life online. The Library of Congress will go through the difficult processes of enhancing and digitizing the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, while the Chicago History Museum will retain ownership and
copyrights to the recordings.
It may be at least 2012 or 2013 before these rare recordings will be heard online, as the digitizing process itself could take over two years to complete. Once done, these interviews, including those with Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Leonard Bernstein, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Dylan, will be as informative and as educational on any US History textbook covering information of that era.
Almost five decades of important audio work will soon be available again. It is conceivable that Studs Terkel could become as important a cultural figure and as influential to a new generation, many years after his death, as he was during his many years of life.