In the summer of 2009 I worked with the Pacifica Radio Archives (PRA) and the University of California, Berkeley on a preservation and access project involving the Archives’ material of LGBTQ (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/questioning) interest.
The internship was supervised in Los Angeles at the Archives by Brian DeShazor, executive director of PRA, and in Berkeley by Gary Handman , head of the University’s Media Resources Center (MRC) at Moffitt Library, with KPFA’s Adi Gevins coordinating preservation activity between the two sites. Beginning in June and working with Emily Vinson, a student at the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas, Austin, the two of us combed through PRA’s vast collection of ¼” reel-to-reel audio tapes, identifying and selecting material for preservation. Having identified approximately 70 tapes for consideration, we performed a cursory visual inspection of each tape utilizing PRA’s in-house standards combined with the New York Public Library’s ¼” reel-to-reel audio tape assessment guide created by Danny Sbardella. Tapes in good-to-excellent condition were transferred in-house; tapes in fair-to-poor condition were set aside to be shipped out to the SafeSound audio preservation facility in Philadelphia where more extensive cleaning and repair could be performed on damaged materials. We then assigned preservation priority to each tape based on Gary Handman’s criteria for the online interface portion of the project. Material of a higher priority was transferred on-site at PRA; in all, about 25 tapes were converted into uncompressed .aiff files onto CD-RWs in my time there.
In July, I went to the MRC to work with Gary in creating an interface for the MRC website. The bulk of my time at MRC was spent conducting research on 20th century LGBTQ history. I transferred the material on the CDs into 128-kbps .mp3s which were then uploaded onto the MRC’s server. I then took the further step of converting the .mp3 files into .m3u files which can be read by the server and streamed from the website into an audio playback interface such as iTunes. A return trip to Los Angeles to do more work at the archives yielded seven more programs transferred onto CD. The final form of the project will be a timeline on the MRC website, one which it is my hope will be consistently updated to reflect ongoing currents in LGBTQ history illustrated with moments from the Pacifica Radio Archives’ vault of historical programs. In the process of the internship, Adi Gevins and I also managed, as representatives of Pacifica Radio, to establish relationships with local archives whose holdings reflect the preservation and access project’s interests, such as the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society in San Francisco and the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives located on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles.