Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Pacifica Radio Archives is one-third of the way through a remarkable grant project “American Women Making History and Culture: 1963-1982” funded in part by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, to preserve all of our audio related to the American Women’s movement during that time period.

The Pacifica team, led by Project Director Brian DeShazor, decided to undertake this project back in 2011 after reviewing our collection and noting that even though we had digitally preserved nearly all of our recordings related to the Civil Rights movement and LGBT Rights movements, there was still a large number of recordings related to the Women’s movement that had not yet been digitized and were not “discoverable.”  Hundreds of recordings featuring well-known women activists such as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Germaine Greer, Dolores Huerta, Rosa Parks (and many, many more) had been digitized, but over 1,500 recordings featuring lesser-known and unknown women who made the movement a movement were still on reel format.

As I searched our online database using keywords such as “women,” “feminism,” “lesbian,” “male-chauvinism,” “abortion,” etc., I was so excited to find documentation of nearly the entire movement in our collection: the experiences of women from different ethnic groups during the Women’s movement, reports of Women’s movements happening around the world, Women’s sexuality, Women and work, men discussing what they think about Women’s rights, Women-centered art, music, theater; it goes on and on.

One good and bad discovery has been the realization of how much Women’s content had not yet been preserved. One recent example was a male-hosted series about films and the film industry, where nearly all of the interviews featuring male movie directors and actors had been digitized, but those centering on women actors and filmmakers were yet to be digitized.  Also, when adding contributor names (i.e. producers, engineer, etc.) to our database, if I enter a women’s name such as “Jennifer,” one or two names drop down. But if I enter a man’s name like “Steven,” about 30 names drop down. Not only have recordings about women not been equally preserved, but also the women who created them haven’t been equally acknowledged.  Sometimes I run across a recording that seems so important and think “Why hasn’t this been preserved until now???” I get heated, but then remember, “Hey, but we’re doing it now! Keep calm and keep cataloging.”

I’ve heard of archivists getting emotionally involved in the materials they are preserving, and I have definitely had that experience with this collection. While I sometimes feel enraged by the sexism I see even in my catalog, I remember how lucky I am to get to work with all of this great material and how honored I am to be helping to preserve it. The project team including Director Brian DeShazor, Project Coordinator Adi Gevins, Archivists Holly Rose McGee and Joseph Gallucci, Production Coordinator Edgar Toledo, the Pacifica staff and I are looking forward to seeing this important content being used by students, professors, artists, writers, filmmakers, and the general public.

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Jolene M. Beiser
Project Archivist 


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