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Thanks to a grant, the radio archive material from every Historically Black College and University in the nation’s radio stations will be preserved to guarantee their legacy continues.

The community-owned and operated WYSO public radio station announced on Monday (January 28) that it has received a hefty grant of $5 million from the Mellon Foundation in support of its initiative to preserve the archived material of every radio station attached to a Historically Black College or University in the nation. Known as The HBCU Radio Preservation Project, the initiative is a cooperative between the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)and the WYSO Archives. The project will preserve the archives of the radio stations for 29 of the 104 HBCUs currently established.

This is sacred work,” says Jocelyn Robinson, the project’s founding director and the director of radio preservation and archives at WYSO in an interview with The Dayton Daily News. (WYSO is located in Yellow Springs, Ohio just outside of the city of Dayton.) “And now we can help every HBCU station save precious primary recordings and other historical source materials that document the diversity of the Black experience. And we’re not just preventing the loss of invaluable historical records — we’re encouraging institutions in developing a culture and practice of preservation. That will ensure they never face the looming preservation crisis this project was created to prevent.”

The HBCU Radio Preservation Project began in 2019 after a survey gauging the needs and preservation practices at HBCU radio stations had been conducted. The aim of the project, according to their website, is “to preserve the stations’ audio collections, and to facilitate capacity-building and sustainability through connecting and supporting the stations and the institutional archives on campus.” The project will have three phases of implementation which include the training of archivists and community members with HBCU graduates getting consideration in addition to training by oral historians and field archivists working with each institution and the communities they serve. 

The HBCU Radio Preservation Project will also have an oral history collection that will be housed at the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi and a reformatted collection of archived material from HBCU radio states available through the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.