Five Things Chicago’s Media Archivists Want You To Know

A cadre of Chicagoans who are hard at work salvaging our recorded history — on film, video and audio tape — recently swapped stories. They told tales of diving into dumpsters to rescue footage, of preserving and cataloging their spoils, of tiptoeing around copyright laws, and of collaborating  — with filmmakers, podcasters, artists, students, teachers, and musicians interested in exploring or using their work to create something new.

They recently gathered at the Museum of Broadcast Communications for a discussion sponsored by the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Panelists included:

  • Tom Weinberg and Sara Chapman of Media Burn Archive, which collects, restores and distributes documentary video and television created by artists, activists and community groups in Chicago and beyond.
  • Michelle Puetz of the Chicago Film Archive, a regional film archive dedicated to identifying, collecting, preserving and providing access to a diverse array of public and private films that represent the Midwest.
  • And, Tony Macaluso and Allison Schein Holmes of Studs Terkel Radio Archive, a public archive of more than 5,000 conversations Studs conducted over the course of his career, launching in May.
  • John Owens of the Decades Network moderated the event.

Below are just five key takeaways from their two-hour long conversation, which kicked off with some of their favorite finds and is available in full here.

  1. We should all be taking extra special care of all of our personal and professional archives — and transfer those tapes (like, yesterday).

If you produced work on VHS or other types of tape or have home movies, Sara Chapman, executive director of Media Burn, suggests taking immediate steps to preserve them.

“Videotapes are at the end of [their] lifespan now,” she said. “There have been estimates as dire as starting around 2023 it will be pretty impossible to get your tapes transferred. The tapes themselves deteriorate very quickly and they’re unrecoverable once they deteriorate. You can’t really bring back with a photochemical process like film. There’s nothing you can do.”

So move that to the top of your to-do list.

In the meantime, be careful how you store that tape. Different types of media require different storage methods, but in general, the panelists recommend keeping personal archives in a cool, dark place with as stable a temperature and as low humidity as possible.

Meanwhile, if you are digitizing video files on your own for safe storage, Chapman recommends keeping video files uncompressed, with an avi or mov wrapper.

  1. The idea that everything that has ever been created is available in the cloud is “really very, very dangerous.”

It takes a lot of time, effort and money to get all of the footage and audio from old tapes into the collective interwebs, and there is much work left to be done. Continue reading →

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STRA gets major funding boost

We are honored and excited to announce that the Studs Terkel Radio Archive has been the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Check out the press release here!  Between now and 2020, we’ll be able to:

  • Unveil a much more extensive website including curated pages on many areas of content in the archive, and sophisticated search functions.
  • Develop a weekly podcast that features content and themes from the archive, paired with contemporary commentators.
  • Continue to encourage creative reuse of the interviews in the archive.
  • Continue to build our library of transcripts and eventually make them available online.
  • Continue our relationships with our guest curators, who help us to place Studs’ interviews in context and provide introductions to many areas of content in the archive.
  • Continue to provide opportunities for graduate and undergraduate interns.
  • Continue to offer Studs’ radio interviews to the public free of charge!

It has taken us nearly three years to reach this goal.  We are grateful to so many people: our listeners and Kickstarter supporters, our colleagues at the Chicago History Museum; our coworkers at the WFMT Radio Network; the Library of Congress, MediaBurn, our Advisory Committee, Studs’ friends and colleagues, our many interns over the years, and all the folks who have helped us get our name out there – Blank on Blank, CPL’s YOUMedia, Third Coast International Audio Festival, and more.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

It’s almost Memorial Day

Thanks to Megan, one of our interns, for her post in honor of Memorial Day.

It’s late May, which means that Memorial Day is approaching–a time when we honor those who have served in the armed forces and sacrificed their lives for the United States. In order to recognize those who have sacrificed so much for this country, we are sharing the story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran who was wounded and paralyzed by an ambush in Vietnam. In this 1977 interview, Studs asks Kovic about his life and Kovic reads from his memoir Born on the Fourth of July, which was later made into an Academy-Award winning film starring Tom Cruise.  We realize that Studs’ politics were rarely pro-war, but he honored and respected veterans, and that is what we would like to do in sharing this interview.

Studs’ interview follows Kovic’s life from his childhood through the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Kovic discusses what made him join the Marines, the sacrifices he made for his country, and his experiences and insights after his service.

Ron Kovic and Alan Light at the 1990 Academy Awards.

Ron Kovic and Alan Light at the 1990 Academy Awards.

Continue reading →

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Bob Dylan and other news

Instead of sharing a program with you this week, we have lots of news to share.  Everyone who supports our Kickstarter campaign by Sunday, February 21 gets exclusive access to interviews with beloved icons Bob Dylan, Mel Brooks, and Lily Tomlin and her collaborator and wife Jane Wagner.  Hear Studs draw out their thoughts and stories as only he can.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan


Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin


Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks







We talk a lot about the famous people Studs interviewed in his studio.  People like Bob Dylan, Mel Brooks, and Lily Tomlin.  But his guests, famous or not, were often activists, advocates, and working to change the world for the better through their everyday choices and actions.  Studs spoke with feminists, peaceniks, Holocaust survivors, Native Americans, and union activists.  The stories his guests tell are as relevant today as they were when they were first recorded, and to honor their voices we are celebrating Studs’s commitment to social justice this week from Thursday through Sunday.  Check out our Facebook page for more information, starting tomorrow.

You may remember that the theme of last year’s Third Coast Festival ShortDocs competition was Studs’s radio programs.  Tonight the compilation show will be on Chicago’s WBEZ at 10:00pm, or you can listen here.

And finally, we had a lovely endorsement from David Harrington of Kronos Quartet that we’d like to share with you (and my apologies if you’ve already read this on our Kickstarter update, and in that case, thank you for your pledge!).

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is one of the most inspiring and diverse mosaics of American culture ever made. Studs’ energy and his spontaneity, his inimitable voice and his timing, his intense interest in people’s stories and in celebrating the pageantry of our society makes The Studs Terkel Archive my favorite body of work. That this archive will become more available means that future generations of listeners can revel in the fun, the probing questions and the magnetism of Studs Terkel. I always feel better after hearing Studs’ show.  Please join me me in supporting The Studs Terkel Radio Archive.
Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013

Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013


Pledge here!  Thank you!


Photo credits

Brooks: By Towpilot (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Dylan: By U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) This image was made by Rowland Scherman on assignment from The US Information Agency, 1963. – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 542021.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | Español | Français | Italiano | Македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | Polski | Português | Русский | Slovenščina | Türkçe | Tiếng Việt | 中文(简体) | 中文(繁體) | +/−, Public Domain,

Tomlin: By U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Kronos: ©Jay Blakesberg

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One Book, One Chicago Partnership!!



We are happy to announce our new partnership with Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago campaign.  We can’t wait to share Studs Terkel’s programs in conjunction with this years pick, The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja.

Read all about it here. Happy reading/listening!

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Creating Awesome Things!

“You guys are going to create awesome things”. And they did. While working on New Voices on the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, the kids brainstormed, collaborated and created all summer. Using content and ideas from The Studs Terkel Radio Archive they created an exhibit that is truly one of a kind. The special “sneak peak” was on August 22nd but the exhibit opens to the public on September 11th at the Chicago Arts District and runs through September 25th when this amazing exhibit will culminate with a well-deserved closing ceremony to honor these young artists.

But while you’re waiting for this exciting exhibit to open, take some time to watch this brief video detailing some of the work that went into it.

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New Voices on Studs Terkel Radio Archive Exhibit Special Preview on 8/23!

It’s been a busy summer for the students at ChiArts, Convergent Academies at Tilden and YouMedia as they’ve prepared their projects for the New Voices on Studs Terkel Radio Archive exhibit  which begins with a sneak peak on August 23rd at The Chicago History Museum  in their first floor Guild Room from 12:30 – 4:30pm.  In addition to seeing one piece from each locale you’ll be able to experience interactive exhibits, a listening station and a photo series on pictures of two people, in hoping of telling a narrative between them..

Then on September 11th, we pull out all the stops for the gala opening as we celebrate at the Chicago Art Department on 1932 South Halsted in Chicago. Starting at 6:00pm you’ll be able to see and interact with all of the pieces, meet the artists and leave your thoughts or feedback on the exhibit. Until then check out the blog and student bios at New Voices on Studs Terkel Radio Archive exhibit and learn more about what it takes to live the creative life.

The teens have been working hard this summer to create the best interactive pieces possible using audio from The Studs Terkel Radio Archive, their Ninja-like skills and unlimited imaginations, so don’t miss your chance to see and experience their incredible work. Can’t join us for any of these special dates? Don’t worry, the exhibit runs from September 11 through September 25 when we’ll have a closing ceremony at 6:30pm to honor these awesome talents.

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New Voices on Studs Terkel Teen Program

We are excited to announce the beginning of our new summer program in partnership with YOUmedia Chicago, Convergence Academies at Tilden and ChiArts.

This program gives teen the opportunity to create new works based on Terkel’s 45 years at WFMT.  All teen content will then be ingested into the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.


To learn more click here.


Online Voting Is Open For The 2015 People’s ShortDoc Award!

2015 ShortDocs_tileThe Third Coast International Audio Festival’s 2015 People’s ShortDoc Award is coming to an end! Don’t wait to cast a ballot for your favorite STUDS RULES story from the 2015 ShortDocs Challenge, presented in partnership with the WFMT Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

We’ve selected eight finalists from a pool of over 150 submissions! Just one will be crowned with the People’s ShortDoc Award (PSDA). Listen below to all eight finalists before making your decision, then vote just once between June 2 – June 22, midnight CST. The ShortDoc that collects the most votes will be celebrated as our PSDA winner along with four other winners (chosen by Third Coast and WFMT staff) at and on our radio program/podcast Re:sound.

Not sure which ShortDoc to vote for? (Can’t blame you, they’re all fantastic.) Here are a few things to consider:

– Compelling story choice
– Use of sound to help tell story
– Use of ShortDocs rules – contains the question “And what happened then?” and includes a “shout of silence” or a “cry of laughter”

Who Remembers My Father’s Voice? / Pablo Duarte (Mexico City, Mexico)
Who Took Mom to Prom? / Emer Horgan (Dublin, Ireland)
What Could Be So Bad About This? / John-Michael Forman (Chattanooga, TN)
What Makes a Good Marriage? / Olivia Humphreys (London, England)
What Was It About Marriage Anyway? / Austin Mitchell (Brooklyn, NY)
What Do You Look Forward To, Aai? / Neena Pathak (Minneapolis, MN)
Where Do I Find You Now? / Sara Curtis (San Francisco, CA)
Where Do I Even Start? / Aaron Leeder and Benjamin Riskin (Brooklyn, NY)

Once you’ve listen to all of them you can VOTE HERE. Remember you can only vote once so pick carefully.

After voting, why not listen to more of ShortDocs that were submitted this year?

Read more about the 2015 ShortDocs Challenge rules, the incentives, and the fine print here.

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Vote For Your Favorite In The ShortDocs Challenge: Studs Rules Contest

peoplesshortdocbutton2 (2)The Third Coast Audio Festival ShortDocs Challenge: Studs Rules is coming to an end next week and so is your chance to listen to all of the great short documentaries at the Third Coast Audio Festival 2015 ShortDocs library. While finalists have already been chosen you can still listen to the over 150 entries we received at Third Coast Festival.  And while these docs may be short on time, none of them are short on inspiration, tears, laughter and joy. Don’t have the time or patience to listen to all of the entries then join us next Wednesday, June 3rd to listen to and vote for the 2015 People’s Short Doc. Specifics are below but you’ll want to arrive early for the food trucks and drinks. Stay to listen to the finalists and vote for your favorite to receive an “I Voted!” sticker. We look forward to seeing you there!

WHAT: Third Coast Listening Room & People’s ShortDoc Voting
WHEN: Wednesday, June 3rd / Program starts at 7pm, arrive at 6pm for food trucks and drinks.
WHERE: The Co-Prosperity Sphere / 3219 S. Morgan St, Chicago (Bridgeport)
TIX: $10, you can buy them here. If available, we’ll also sell them at the door.
TLDR version:
Sonic delights, tasty food, cold beer, community.

The event is hosted in partnership with the Studs Terkel Radio Archive at WFMT, Lumpen Radio and Public Media Institute. See you there!

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