Backlogs as causes of silences

Well, I was behind—and behind me, you can see a bunch of boxes and bunches of shelves. And that area is where there’s uncatalogued materials, things that we’ve never listed or inventoried or given a number. So it’s stuff that was just sort of put into a box from, say, New York station WBAI and shipped to the archives, and it’s been sitting there for 40, 50 years.

Well, I was going through, on a weekend, a Saturday, on my belly, on the ground, on a bottom shelf back there, going tape by tape and reading the information on the box to identify women’s recordings. Well, I saw a box that said “Dr. Martin Luther King, London–1965,” and that’s all there was on it. So I just sort of set it aside; it wasn’t within the profile of what I was looking for. But I said, “Oh, let me look into that. That doesn’t look familiar to me.”

Well, we sort of set it aside, and our senior producer, Mark Torres, in the archives, just a month ago—or, no, maybe actually two weeks ago, finally put it on our Studer machine and transferred it. It was in quarter-inch track. It was a small, seven-inch reel-to-reel. And we thought it might be a half an hour or less. Well, it—he sounded like a chipmunk, so we had to do some digital editing and filtering to get it to sound perfect, and it’s an hour-long speech.

That’s the story about the discovery of the only known full recording of a speech of Martin Luther King.

There’s this also:

And as archivists know, there’s a lot of information that is incorrect when you locate something, so you actually have to put the reel-to-reel on a machine, listen to it and then do the research from scratch.

Backlogs as causes of silences

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