ST. LOUIS — Missouri will host the pilot project for an initiative to make radio history available through a national archive.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2d3tgVy ) reports that the Radio Preservation Task Force, overseen by the Library of Congress, is collecting and cataloging radio recordings. Missouri is the pilot in part because of preservation efforts already made in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Task force director Josh Sheppard says there has never previously been a concerted effort by one federal institution to trace old recordings.

“We realized pretty quickly that at least 75 percent of recorded radio has been discarded or destroyed,” he said.

The group is hoping to have 1.8 million to 2.5 million recordings identified by 2020. Digitizing efforts will follow, as money and time allow.

Mark Gordon, president and CEO of the Missouri Broadcasters Association, which has members from about 380 stations, said the association has reached out to all of them, seeking recordings.

“Radio broadcasting brings communities together,” Gordon said. “It’s how they learn about one another. There is a nostalgia for people who grew up with it, but for some who haven’t experienced it, they hear this is what it was like.”

Bob Priddy, retired MissouriNet radio network news director, has hundreds of hours of tape from his 40 years of covering the Missouri Legislature, along with other recordings from Jefferson City radio station KLIK where he once worked.

“People can read what was in a newspaper, but if you want to hear the voices of people making the news, or you want to hear the sound of that event, there is nothing, unless this archive can be put together,” Priddy said.

Priddy ponders what it was like to live in rural Missouri in the early days of radio in the 1920s and 1930s, working a farm while hearing someone in New York City singing from a box. The radio helped farmers make decisions based on the weather report, or decide to load up the Model T and drive to town upon hearing that day’s grain prices.

Frank Absher, a former local radio reporter who is executive director of the St. Louis Media History Foundation, is leading the effort here and statewide to gather recordings. He said the earliest recording the group has is a special KMOX did outside the Anheuser-Busch brewery at the end of Prohibition.

“We have to grab what’s left out there and get a hold of it,” Absher said.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com