Tune Chasin’ the Past: Unlocking the Hidden Contents of a Disc Stamper Collection
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In April 2011, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Marr Sound Archives was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to preserve and catalog the nearly 2,000 lacquer and transcription discs in the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection. KMBC, a CBS-affiliated station in Kansas City, was established in 1927 by Arthur B. Church, the broadcasting pioneer responsible for several syndicated radio shows including The Texas Rangers, Phenomenon, and Brush Creek Follies. The sound recordings in the collection are a treasure trove of local and national history from the late 1930s through the 1940s, revealing the American experience during wartime through news broadcasts, political speeches, musical entertainment, rural comedies, and radio soap operas. Coupled with the sound recordings were a large number of stampers--metal plates used to press or “stamp” grooves onto plastic to produce vinyl records. These manufacturing parts contain a wealth of musical performances by the Texas Rangers, Tex Owens, Bonnie King, Tune Chasers, and Harry Jenks that had been hidden in our collection, and possibly others. We determined that in order to transfer the audio from these metal stampers, a special stylus would need to be acquired. As these particular styli are difficult to manufacture, we found ourselves in a “waiting game.” With the impending deadline arose a new concern: How do we discover and provide access to content from these obsolete metal plates? In this poster, we demonstrate the multi-faceted process used to leverage existing resources and acquire additional materials in the most cost-effective way in order to preserve and reveal the hidden contents of an obsolete format. We present the issues, outcomes, and unexpected discoveries that led us to successfully identify and provide access to the recordings in the KMBC Radio Collection.