The Studs Terkel Radio Archive receives a $400,000 Digital Programs for the Public Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities


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CHICAGO – December 14, 2016 – The Studs Terkel Radio Archive (STRA) and its managing organizations, the WFMT Radio Network (a division of Window to the World Communications, Inc.) and the Chicago History Museum, are pleased to share the news that the National Endowment for the Humanities has selected the STRA as a recipient of a Digital Programs for the Public grant in the amount of $400,000.

This grant will enable the STRA to implement many key initiatives between now and the year 2020.

The STRA consists of more than 5,600 radio programs that Terkel created at WFMT in Chicago between 1952 and 1997, during which time he rose to national prominence as a result of his radio work, his oral history books, and his reputation as a humanist who could listen and talk with insight and curiosity about almost any topic. In addition to conversations, the content in the STRA includes:

  • In-the-field recordings from major historical events (the March from Selma, the Freedom Train to Washington for Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in 1963);
  • Recordings from global travels (China, England, Germany, Italy, South Africa, the Soviet Union and elsewhere);
  • Documentaries and radio dramas;
  • Music programs and readings from great works of literature.

The list of cultural and social figures included in the STRA includes Mohammad Ali, Louis Armstrong, James Baldwin, Simone de Beauvoir, Bob Dylan, Federico Fellini, Martha Graham, Margaret Mead, Bertrand Russell, Oliver Sacks, Maurice Sendak, Susan Sontag, Kurt Vonnegut, and thousands more.

Upon his retirement from WFMT in 1997, Terkel’s reel-to-reel tapes were given to the Chicago History Museum. The creation of the STRA as a digital humanities resource began when the Library of Congress’ Division of Recorded Sound accepted Terkel’s tapes, and undertook the vital process of digitizing them as a critical in-kind endeavor.

While additional funding is still required for some aspects of the STRA, this major grant will facilitate the following five components that will collectively position the STRA as one of the most innovative examples of using audio archives as the foundation for a digital humanities resource:

  1. The Digital Collection: Making the vast majority of Studs’ 5,600 radio programs accessible to the public through on an online digital repository ( enhanced by transcripts, keywords, category curation, commentary by humanities scholars.
  2. Facilitating Creative Re-Use of Audio Content: Already, content from the STRA has been used by partners such as the BBC, the Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, Chicago Public Library, the European Broadcasting Union, Melville House Press, Radio France, Rolling Stone, Third Coast International Audio Festival, NPR, and many others. This grant will significantly expand the capacity for STRA staff to make audio from the collection more readily available and to proactively foster re-use partnerships.
  3. Curriculum Development: The STRA has a number of education partners in place, and this grant will fund the implementation of curriculum development, the initial phase of which will be done in partnership with the Great Books Foundation on its first-ever audio-based curriculum to enable high school students to explore the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, work will continue with Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia after school program.
  4. Public Events: This grant will also support the creation of a number of high profile events encouraging the public to explore humanities themes in creative ways, most notably through a partnership with Illinois Humanities to create a series of events celebrating the Bicentennial of the State of Illinois. Many others will occur in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and various national humanities organizations.
  5. Podcast: Support from the NEH will also enable the creation of a new podcast (title TBD) to be distributed by the WFMT Radio Network using audio from Terkel’s radio archive. The podcast will go into production soon and launch in the fall of 2017 under the production of celebrated producer Jonathan Groubert (The State We’re In) and STRA staff.

The STRA is overseen by Tony Macaluso (Director of Syndication of the WFMT Radio Network) along with Allison Schein (Archivist) and Grace Radkins (Digital Content Librarian) with guidance provided by the STRA Advisory Committee, which includes former colleagues of Terkel who also serve on the Studs Terkel Estate (Lois Baum, Tony Judge, Sydney Lewis, Adrian Marin) as well as staff from the Chicago History Museum, Great Books Foundation, Illinois Humanities and other advisors. Key technology partners for the STRA include Digital ReLab,, and Dominican University’s School of Information Studies.

“Almost exactly two decades after Studs finished his remarkable 45 years career at WFMT, this tremendous support from the NEH will ensure that Studs’ radio work will be discovered and used in creative ways by new generations in ways that he could never have envisioned,” said Macaluso.

“NEH support emphasizes the need to make accessible these remarkable programs that are materially at risk and depict conversations that are just as relevant today as they were when they first aired,” added Schein. “Bringing these voices to the public and especially to today’s youth ensures that these will have a greater impact on how we think about our past, and how it can shape our present.”

“WWCI is thrilled that the NEH has chosen to support this project with such a generous gift – the largest it can offer for an initiative of this kind,” said Dan Schmidt, President and CEO of WWCI. “We are greatly encouraged by this vote of confidence, and look forward to using these resources to continue the painstaking work being done to digitize and share this priceless content.”

The announcement of this support from the NEH marks a major turning point in ensuring that Studs Terkel’s radio work will inspire future generations and can be used creatively by teachers, students, journalists, artists, activists, radio producers, scholars, documentary makers, and the general public.

About the WFMT Radio Network

The WFMT Radio Network creates, seeks out, and distributes radio programs of importance, depth and beauty to stations serving audiences across the United States and around the world. In addition to syndicating concerts by such renowned orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and festivals such as the Salzburg Festival and the Edinburg International Music Festival, the Network also produces and syndicates shows such as Leonard Bernstein: An American Life with Susan Sarandon; Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin and its website; Collector’s Corner with Henry Fogel; Fiesta! with Elbio Barilari, focusing on the classical music of South America, Spain and Portugal; and Relevant Tones with Seth Boustead, exploring contemporary music in the classical tradition and many other classical, Jazz, folk, and spoken word programs. WFMT Radio Network programs have received every major broadcasting award and honor, including the George Foster Peabody Award, Prix Italia and the Major Armstrong Award.