Magnetic audiotape was the workhorse of radio in the 1980s, in KGOU’s early days of serving the campus community at the University of Oklahoma with music and a few NPR programs. Local news and feature interviews, and sometimes whole radio shows were recorded on reels of tape and saved for future use, or erased and recorded over with the next episode.
But audiotape begins to deteriorate after about 10 years, depending on how and where it is stored. If properly cared for, it can last longer, but is likely to start to disintegrate or suffer severe loss of audio quality with the passage of time.
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collaboration between the Library of Congress and GBH, has been working against time to save and digitize early public radio recordings on tape or other technology that has come and gone since, such as audio cassettes or digital audio tape (DAT). The work was begun in 2013 with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and later, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In 2019, AAPB expanded its efforts, launching a fellowship program to place graduate fellows with university programs to help local public stations preserve their archives.
“We don’t really know everything we have on reel-to-reel tape, or how far back it goes,” said Jim Johnson, KGOU’s program director. “It wasn’t labeled very well, or the label has come off or faded over the years. But we know we have recordings of KGOU coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and also some programming by and for Native Americans that is culturally important.”
You can read a lot more in an article by Laura Knoll and published in the KGOU web site at: https://bit.ly/3U6Qg7e.