If you have listened to Afropop Worldwide’s radio program or podcast any time in the past 31 years, you have heard just a small part of our vast archive of live concerts and performances, interviews, rare audio releases and field recordings from far corners of the world. We have produced over 800 hour-long radio programs, and many additional podcasts and Web-videos as well as countless text/image Web features. Our Peabody Award-winning body of work is based on over 100 field research trips to most of the countries in Africa, South America and the Caribbean, as well as locations in Europe, the Middle East, and of course, the U.S.
In the past year, we have been preparing to consolidate the archive in Middletown, Connecticut, where the program concept was incubated long ago at Wesleyan University. The archive consists of audio recordings in seven different formats—ranging from old-school cassettes to flash drives and memory cards—lots of vinyl, more CDs than you would ever want to see in one place, VHS and Beta tapes, original video from our own fieldwork going as far back as the era of Hi-8, photographs, notebooks, publications, promotional materials, posters, souvenirs… Back in the day we did a lot of recording on DAT tapes which turn out to be very vulnerable to decay. These will get priority treatment in the digitization lab we are setting up in Middletown. Out of this transformed archive will come cool new products and services. In the video in our GoFundMe page (click arrow above), Banning Eyre illustrates the story, featuring lively video moments from our visits to Madagascar, Egypt, Mali, Ghana.
All this material has been stored in three different locations in Brooklyn and in Connecticut. Now it’s time to pull the pieces together. We’ve been preparing for an early summer move in which all these holdings will be reunited in a spacious new location so that the long work of digitizing, preserving, cataloging and indexing can begin.
The good news is that we have found enthusiastic partners to help with the processing work, and also, innovative educational initiatives keen to partner with us to incorporate elements of the archive for use in school curricula and a new generation of cutting-edge educational tools: interactive maps and timelines, graphic interfaces to rich multimedia databases, and new tools emerging all the time. We are also working with Stevie Van Zandt’s TeachRock.org to develop a prototype high school curriculum based on Afropop archival data.
But there are considerable expenses involved in this undertaking, beyond the costs of producing our ongoing content. Specifically:
- The moving van and workers: there’s a fair amount of heavy furniture associated with all these materials.
- Rental costs for the space in Middletown.
- Additional storage furniture for safe and efficient access to vulnerable items, such as digital audio tapes and analog photographs, slides and negatives
- Three basic laptops to be used in the digitization lab we are setting up in Middletown (we have most of the other gear we need).
- Bulk photo digitization (This is work more efficiently done by industry professionals).
- Compensation for archiving interns and consultants.