Studs Terkel Radio Archive

“Hello everyone! It has been awhile since the last newsletter but the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is still alive and kicking, just as Studs would have wanted. We’re constantly adding new, fully digitized and freely available conversations to our website. Of the around 300 boxes of audio tapes we initially had, only 50 remain for conversion! Here’s just 3 of the terrific conversations we’ve added over the past few months.” This is a great project, see full story here

Anniversary of death of Studs Terkel

There will never be another radio-talk-show host, oral historian, raconteur, or colorful character like Studs Terkel, who died 10 years ago, on October 31, 2008. Today, organizers, activists, and academics emphasize the importance of people “telling their stories” in order to insert a human element in political battles and to “shape the narrative” of how we look at social movements. Terkel reinvented the study of history and contemporary politics by giving ordinary people an opportunity to tell their stories.  Read full story here.

Studs Terkel Radio Shows

Chicago History Museum says it will have the programs, created over 45 years, on The Studs Terkel Radio Archive at by May 16, what would have been the author/historian/actor/radio personality’s 106th birthday.  For full story click here.

The legendary Studs Terkel at the Chicago History Museum

Lesley Jenkins' blog post from Chicago:

Resize of 189Stud's well-known radio program, titled The Studs Terkel Program, aired on 98.7WFMT Chicago between 1952 and 1997. The one-hour program was broadcast each weekday during those forty-five years. On this program, he interviewed guests as diverse as Martin Luther King, Jr. Leonard BernsteinBob DylanAlexander FreyDorothy ParkerTennessee Williams and Jean Shepherd. It is believed that there were no transcripts generated from these interviews but his extensive files, located at the Chicago History Museum, are yet to be fully cataloged, however this material was recorded with open reel tapes and the Museum has retained an open reel player as part of its collection.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Terkel was also the central character of Studs' Place, an unscripted television drama about the owner of a greasy-spoon diner in Chicago through which many famous people and interesting characters passed. This show, along with Marlin Perkins'sZoo ParadeGarroway at Large and the children's show Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, are widely considered canonical examples of the Chicago School of Television.

Terkel published his first book, Giants of Jazz, in 1956. He followed it with a number of other books, most focusing on the history of the United States people, relying substantially on oral history. He also served as a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Chicago History Museum. At CHM, he sometimes participated in the Museum’s public programs often working with the Museum’s Youth Programs Manager and oral historian, Marie Scatena, who went on to be a leading member of the Chicago chapter of  the oral history group Groundswell who are concerned with social justice issues.

He recorded his book material on cassette tape and edited the material for the books on an ‘as needs’ basis rather than generate transcripts.

In 1995, he received the Chicago History Museum "Making History Award" for Distinction in Journalism and Communications. In 1998, Terkel and WFMT, the radio station which broadcast Terkel's long-running program, had donated approximately 7,000 tape recordings of Terkel's interviews and broadcasts to the Chicago History Museum. During this time he also ran oral history classes at De Paul university in Chicago.  

In 2010, the Museum and the Library of Congress announced a multi-year joint collaboration to digitally preserve and make available at both institutions these recordings, which the Library of Congress called, "a remarkably rich history of the ideas and perspectives of both common and influential people living in the second half of the 20th century." "For Studs, there was not a voice that should not be heard, a story that could not be told," said Gary T. Johnson, Museum president. "He believed that everyone had the right to be heard and had something important to say. He was there to listen, to chronicle, and to make sure their stories are remembered."  The WFMT tapes have been sent off in batchs to the Library of Congress and 1 digital copy is returned to the Museum along with the original tape recording. The Library of Congress retains a digital copy of the recording.

In 2014 WFMT and the Chicago History Museum announced the creation of the website,, which will house the entire archive of Studs Terkel interviews. Currently the CHM transfers analogue audio material to digital files for a fee upon request. Once it has been digitized it is placed in the public domain for free via the CHC portal however  the CHM is exploring with Google the possibility of providing rough copy transcripts of the interviews which will be created via crowdsourcing.The Studs Terkel Centre for Oral History is managed by archivist Peter Alter with the assistance of interns and volunteers.
[Photo by Lesley Jenkins; part of above from Wikipedia]

First 10 Years of StoryCorps

“Ties That Bind: Stories of Love & Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps,” by Dave Isay, with Lizzie Jacobs. New York: The Penguin Press, 2013. 202 pages, $25.95 (hardcover).  Dave Isay is founder of StoryCorps, the oral history project that has collected conversations between friends and family members for the National Archives and for airing on National Public Radio on Friday mornings for the past 10 years. As StoryCorps began its collection process, Studs Terkel stood in Grand Central Station at the first recording booth and proclaimed: “Today, we shall begin celebrating the lives of the uncelebrated.” During the past 10 years, StoryCorps has more than met all expectations for success by recording almost 50,000 interviews from more than 1,000 locations spread over all 50 states.  Read full story here and listen to an interview with Dave Isay here.

Defending oral history

Kaitlin Fontana reflects on the death of Studs Terkel and the place of oral history today:
Five years ago, literary icon Louis “Studs” Terkel died in his native, beloved, Chicago. He was 96, four years short of a milestone befitting the expansiveness with which he’d embraced the seldom-heard voices of his country — that is the working, the poor, the normal (in particular, that odd normalcy that is the American Midwest). For Studs Terkel not to make it to 100 seemed cruel, because his voice seems as old as America itself.
Read her full article here.