Studs Terkel Radio Archive (Courtesy of WFMT)
Studs Terkel Radio Archive (Courtesy of WFMT)

Before Serial, This American Life, Radiolab, Fresh Air or any of the other popular podcasts of today, there was Studs Terkel.

Studs Terkel (Courtesy of WFMT)
Studs Terkel (Courtesy of WFMT)

The Chicago broadcaster, who passed away in 2008, spent 45 years at local radio station WFMT logging hours of interviews with icons such as Martin Luther King Jr., Kurt Vonnegut, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, while giving a voice to marginalized communities, such as survivors of the Hiroshima bombings and members of an early PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group.

Now WFMT and the Chicago History Museum are aiming to bring his words and work to the digital age.

The two organizations launched a Kickstarter Thursday to an online archive of Terkel’s interviews and broadcasts. In addition to making his work more accessible to a younger, digitally oriented audience, the project would offer accompanying online tools so journalists and storytellers of today could sample, remix, and share Terkel’s audio.

Creating an archive of Terkel’s work has been an ongoing project of WFMT and the Chicago History Museum, but this Kickstarter campaign would fund audio archiving, transcription, and uploading of 1,000 of Terkel’s most notable interviews. These were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes, which currently render them inaccessible to the general public.. This will bring the total interviews online to 1,400. Ultimately, they aim to bring 5,600 interviews and stories (totaling 9,000 hours of audio) online.

“We cannot afford to lose the priceless history, insight, and intelligence that Studs Terkel captured from his studio in Chicago over the course of nearly 50 momentous and turbulent years,” said Steve Robinson, General Manager of WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network in a statement. “Studs was always one step ahead of everyone else both in introducing audiences to the leaders and uncelebrated people who were changing the world and the arts, as well in pushing the boundaries of modern broadcasting.”

Studs Terkel's interviews (Courtesy of WFMT)
Studs Terkel’s interviews (Courtesy of WFMT)

Terkel is also an inspiration to many current broadcasters, including This American Life host Ira Glass, who recognized a sense of lasting legacy in Terkel’s broadcasts.

‘There’s such a sense of drama and history, and also the sense that what he’s doing is creating an archive,” said Glass in a statement. “He’s making it for the future.”

In addition to making the audio available online, the digital archive would feature editing tools from HyperAudio, which will allow journalists, podcasters, and storytellers to remix his audio. This project would make the audio available for listening, creative reuse, licensing, and educational purposes.

“By preserving Studs’ work for future generations, we will ensure that he continues to have just as significant an impact on the future of storytelling, social justice, and broadcasting as he did during his lifetime,” added Robinson.