archives tour [WNYC|WQXR]

On Wednesday, November 8th, I attended a tour of the WNYC Archives, which was put together by ASIS&T Pratt and Pratt SAA. Our tour guide was Andy Lanset, who started the archives department of WNYC in 2000. This came as a bit of a shock to me. That is relatively recent for an archives department to be started, considering WNYC has been in existence since 1922.  So what was the proceess before WNYC/WQXR had archives? [WNYC acquired the classical music station WQXR in 2009.] Lanset advised that, if archival material was desired, seekers had to contact the producers of each individual show to see what the producers happened to keep from their time on the air.  “Hello Archives Anxiety!” To that effect, Lanset continuously reaches out to former producers to see if there is any material out there seeking a more permanent home.

For visual reference, please enjoy this Andy Lanset / Albert Einstein visual mashup, originally tweeted by WNYC in 2013.

We learned from Lanset that grant funding drives the selection of projects for the WNYC/WQXR department. Lanset expressed relief that they had recently finished up a grant-initiated project, for that meant that the archives department could do some house-cleaning and organizational tasks that had begun to pile up. As with most project-based cultural-heritage archives positions, no two days are the same, but it was interesting to note that it was the checking of the obituaries that Lanset undertakes each and everyday, for he knows that the newsroom will be wanting soundbites and interview clips to commemorate any noteworthy person who has recently passed away.

WNYC was housed in the Manhattan Municipal Building until June 2008 | Image  licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, accessed via flickr

Lanset expressed… reservations about the efficacy and usefulness of social media, stating multiple times he tries to keep up with it, but it can sometimes feel like a “back burner” issue. I found this reasonable and often have similar opinions of social media from a “business” standpoint, for  the benefits of social media use by an organization can feel murky at best, especially when the stacks of “real work” are growing. This falls in line with what I am seeing as common for cultural/memory institution engaging in the LIS discipline: there is an obligation not only to do the work – archive, organize, classify, link – but additionally, it is nearly always expected that the institutions or departments [sometimes departments of only a handful of individuals!] are required to evangelize, publicize, and make known the work that they do. The tour was invaluable, and I feel lucky to have come into contact with Mr. Lanset and gained knowledge about the WNYC/WQXR Archives here in New York City.

Mayor La Guardia speaks over WNYC on Grade A milk from Budget Room | Public Domain Image via Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division