As some of you know, on November 19, 2018, I won the 9th Annual Collectors Prize from an organization called Historic New England, for my collection of memorabilia about the history of broadcasting (especially radio). https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156840135181407&set=a.10150195599766407&type=3&theater
In my acceptance speech, I spoke about why I collect such things as old playlists and top-40 surveys; old radio station postcards; magazines about the hit songs of different eras; and rare photos of some of broadcasting's earliest studios, announcers, and sportscasters. No, I'm not just a pack rat, although most collectors (myself included) do seem to enjoy preserving lots of old artifacts. But there's a good reason for collecting: we're trying to keep important aspects of our past alive, so that future generations will better understand what life was like. Yes, you can look at a lot of these items online; but being able to actually hold them in your hands, as people from that era did, is a very powerful experience.
For me, another thing I am trying to do is to say "thank you" to the men and women who came before me, the people who created the industry in which I spent nearly four decades. One of these pioneering broadcasters was Eunice Randall. In radio's earliest years, she was greater Boston's first female announcer (and one of the first in the USA), who also worked in a factory helping to assemble radio receivers and doing technical drawings. Since the late 1990s, it has been my privilege to research and tell Eunice's story, writing her and other forgotten women back into the history of broadcasting. (I even wrote a book about it, "Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting," now in a 2nd edition.) And yes, I've also found a number of interesting men, who may never have achieved national fame but who were popular at their local station. I tell their stories too.
In my opinion, history doesn't have to be dry and boring. It's the story of real people-- how they lived, what they accomplished, why they still matter. That's how I present the history of broadcasting when I give talks at libraries, museums, and schools. And I bring some of my rare memorabilia, so the audience can go back in time and see what people from that era saw. Sometimes, I meet living relatives of the people I've researched, which is always exciting for me. Sometimes, audience members tell me how fondly they remember some of the people I'm discussing. And as I tell these stories, my collection makes the anecdotes and the historical facts more real-- which is exactly what I want it to do.
Perhaps you have older relatives who might enjoy reminiscing about that "friendly voice" they enjoyed hearing each day. Or perhaps you met someone who used to be on the air, and you can make sure their story lives on. Today, radio may not be as dominant a medium as it once was, but for so many years, it made millions of people happy; and based on the reaction I get when I give my talks, there are still many people who grew up with radio, still many people who listen even now. So, I will keep doing my research, keep collecting, keep looking for stories I can tell, and do my part to make sure that the spirit of radio lives on.