The Studs Terkel Radio Archive (STRA), launched in May 2018 on Studs Terkel’s 106th birthday, is a digital platform whereon, eventually, will live the majority of the 5,600 radio programs Terkel created during his career at WFMT in Chicago between 1952 and 1997 live. This platform, augmented by curatorial commentary, re-use tools, educational resources, highlights of creative reuse, and an original podcast, along with other special features, opens up Terkel’s radio programs and allows for a deeper level of user engagement.
The Chicago History Museum (CHM) owns Studs Terkel’s archival tapes. The radio archive is jointly managed by CHM and the WFMT Radio Network, a division of Window to the World Communication Inc. CHM has owned Terkel’s tapes since he retired from WFMT and became a staff member of CHM in 1997. A preliminary online archive of some of Terkel’s audio was created in 2002 and named Studs Terkel: Conversations with America. In 2009, the Library of Congress’s Division of Recorded Sound asked CHM to lend the tapes of the original programs. Soon, the monumental task of digitizing the tapes began at their state-of-the-art Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Culpepper, Virginia. Without this support and the expert dedication of the Library of Congress staff, contributed at no charge to CHM, there would be no radio archive. Senator Dick Durbin gets particular credit for helping this project remain a top national priority for the Library of Congress.
In 2013, CHM’s President, Gary T. Johnson, approached the staff of the WFMT Radio Network about forming a partnership to make the radio archive accessible to the world. An exploratory committee, consisting of a number of Terkel’s former colleagues and friends as well as experts from related fields, was established to develop a strategic plan for the radio archive as the digitized recordings became available. A planning grant was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2014, followed by a larger implementation grant in 2016, both of which, along with support from numerous individuals and foundations, enabled work to proceed on developing the digital platform, studsterkel.org, and related programs and projects.
STRA will continue to evolve, guided by the staff at WFMT, the Chicago History Museum, and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive Advisory Committee, which meets regularly to shape the mission and future of the archive. Key partnerships with technology organizations, including Digital ReLab and Hyperaudio, education organizations like the Chicago Public Library’s YOUMedia and Great Books Foundation, and a wide variety of media, humanities, and arts organizations, have helped expand the archive’s reach.
Tune in to the Best of Studs Friday nights at 11:00 PM on WFMT or stream at wfmt.com!
Allison Schein - Director of Media Archives [email protected]
Matthew Byrd - Studs Terkel Radio Archive Digital Content Producer [email protected]
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I license audio from STRA for projects?
If you are a media maker, artist, scholar, or anyone else seeking to use audio from the STRA, we aim to make the collection as easy to re-use as possible. Please write to STRA archivist Allison Schein at a[email protected] describing your project and audio requests.
How can I use STRA audio in the classroom?
Are you a teacher, administrator, or even a student who wishes to use STRA audio in the classroom? We have curriculum already developed with the Great Books Foundation and Chicago Public Library for use in your school. Find out more here. We are also eager to assist in the development of new curriculum, so if you have an idea, please contact us here.
How can I learn more about Studs Terkel’s life, his work, and his Radio Archive?
We are pleased to answer any questions and share information. Just send a note here, and we will get in touch.
How can I find out about Studs Terkel’s tapes from his oral history books?
The archive consists of tapes made for his radio program on WFMT. His tapes for his many oral history books are owned and maintained at the Chicago History Museum, whose oral history activities as a whole are operated by its “Studs Terkel Center for Oral History.”
How can I discuss other aspects of Studs Terkel’s legacy, including the ability to use his name or image?
The Studs Terkel Estate is a close partner of the radio archive; all inquiries can be directed to [email protected].
How can I get copies of Studs Terkel’s books?
Terkel’s publisher, the New Press, has all of his books still in print.
How can I find other videos about or with Studs?
Our colleagues at Media Burn (a Chicago-based video archive) have a wealth of great Studs Terkel video.
How can I get involved in the STRA?
We have a great ongoing need for interns and volunteers to assist with various facets of the archive and occasionally have job openings.
Our Technology Partners
Digital ReLab's Starchive is the information backbone of STRA, which has made dissemination and manipulation of the archive into a seamless experience.
Hyperaud.io allows us to provide interactive transcripts extending the functionality of speech-to-text transcription