Keynote Speakers

Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan

scannell image

‘No Sound is Dissonant Which Tells of Life:’ History and the audio(visual) archive

History begins with records and historiography has been very largely dependent, for thousands of years, on the written record. From the mid 20th century archives have been established for broadcast material: radio first and, later, television. These archives are dependent on audio(visual) recording technologies and, I will argue, the audio (sound radio) component is first in time and significance. I will briefly consider what is so radically new and exciting, for historians (and all of us), about audio (visual) archives. In a nutshell, written archives at best record the trace-marks of a time which has irretrievably vanished into the night of the dead past. The sound archive brings the past to life each and every time the recording is activated and thus, miraculously, it re-enters the living present. This has consequences for our understanding of the historical process (the making of history) as situated in the play of time itself—past, present and future.

Paddy Scannell is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, after many years at the University of Westminster in London, where he and his colleagues launched the first undergraduate degree program in Media Studies in the UK.  He is the founding editor of Media, Culture and Society and author of A Social History of British Broadcasting, 1922-1939, among many other books and articles that he has written or edited, including Broadcast Talk;  Radio, Television and Modern Life; and, with Elihu Katz, The End of Television? Its Impact on the World—So Far.

Sam Brylawski, University of California-Santa Barbara

SB headshot1C

Unchain Broadcasting, Before It’s Lost Forever: Collaboration for Preservation

Memory institutions have been devoting significant resources to the preservation of radio content for nearly fifty years and the need for preservation of radio broadcasting has been recognized for more than 75 years. Yet the risk of radio recordings being lost forever is greater than it has ever been. This is as true for recordings of contemporary broadcasting as it is for those of historical programming. Libraries and archives are not equipped to take on full responsibility of radio broadcasting preservation. Copyright restrictions impede preservation as well as access. Only with collaboration between creators, institutions, scholars, and collectors will we have any assurance that the full aural history of radio will be accessible in decades to come.

Sam Brylawski is co-director of the American Discography Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara and editor of UCSB’s Discography of American Historical Recordings ( He is the former head of the Library of Congress Recorded Sound Section. Sam is the co-author of the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board study on audio preservation, The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States : A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age, the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan and the ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation He served as chair of the National Recording Preservation Board from 2013 to 2015.


Washington, D. C.

Conference Committee

Conference Program Director
Michele Hilmes (Wisconsin)

Conference Program Committee

Christopher Sterling (GWU and RPTF Director and Convener)
Dolores Inés Casillas (UC-Santa Barbara)
Alexander Russo (Catholic University)
Neil Verma (Northwestern)
Susan Smulyan (Brown)
Special Collections for Mass Media and Culture, University of Maryland
Chuck Howell, Laura Schnitker, Mike Henry

Conference Planning Director

RPTF Research Director: Josh Shepperd (Catholic University)
Planning Assistant: Patricia Mars (Catholic University)