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One Of America's Largest Broadcast Archives Headed To Santa Barbara County

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Long before TV and the internet, radio was where the world turned for entertainment and news.  It brought the world into people’s homes.

The South Coast has been home to one of the world’s largest archives of radio history.  And now, thanks to a library and a university in the region, it may soon be accessible to the public online.

The Thousand Oaks Library Foundation founded the American Radio Archives in 1984.  Now, the collection is being transferred to UC Santa Barbara.

David Seubert is the Performing Arts Curator at UCSB’s Library.  The transfer to the Library’s Special Research Collection makes sense because it has an international reputation for working with rare audio recordings, turning them into digital recordings which are shared online.

The recordings include voices from history, like Winston Churchill.  There are also more contemporary things, like historic elements from some of the Southern California radio stations many of us grew up with, like KHJ.

Most of the collection is currently stored at various locations around Thousand Oaks, with some elements at UCLA.  This will bring the entire collection together in a way which will be accessible to historians.

Plans call for moving the collection later this year, and then working to make some of its elements available online.  The collection is so large the process could take years.

While radio may seem old school to some, research shows that it’s still more popular than television.  A study by the Nielsen ratings service shows that 92% of Americans listen to radio every week, compared to 87% for television.  And, while podcasts have become the hot new thing, Nielsen reports that only 22% of the population listens to them weekly. Radio still has a big role in the media mix. 

The hope as by bringing new accessibility to the American Radio Archives, it will help shine new light on the medium almost forgotten history.