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'Fresh Air' Archive Preserves Decades of Culture & History for Future Generations

April 6, 2017

PHILADELPHIA---April 5, 2017  WHYY recently completed the massive process of preserving historically and culturally significant moments from Fresh Air with Terry Gross, creating a digital archive of decades of interviews with the world's foremost personalities. Now fans of the Peabody Award-winning radio program can journey through time by listening to over 8,000 conversations dating back to 1976 with this century's leading journalists, scholars, celebrities and experts.

A few keystrokes on the websites for international library catalog WorldCat or the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) will take users to information, reference materials and audio from one of the nation's most popular broadcast programs.

'The significance of these archives to scholars, educators and to the public cannot be overstated,' said William J. Marrazzo, President & CEO of WHYY, Inc.  'From B. B. King,  Mel Brooks and Maurice Sendak to Ta-Nehisi Coates and Amy Tan, these interviews offer a unique view into our history and culture and will play an important role in future information and news gathering.'

The Fresh Air audio archive is one of the biggest collections within American public radio.  Currently only a handful of public radio initiatives--like WGBH's Open Vault project, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB), and NPR's Research, Archives and Data strategy team (RAD) have digital asset management systems that allow digital files to be ingested, catalogued and disseminated to a publicly accessible site.

'We anticipate a future platform that will not only increase access to the collection but also support tools to help reveal relationships between various data,' said Anu Paul, Project Manager for Fresh Air Archive at WHYY.

Terry Gross commenced work on Fresh Air in 1975, when the show was broadcast only in Philadelphia. A decade after it went on the air, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which NPR carried. Since May 11, 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM. 

Its intimate conversations with the leading voices in contemporary arts and issues connect with 6 million people weekly on more than 646 NPR stations across the country and in Europe.  Fresh Air is NPR's most downloaded podcast and for a second year in a row was the top downloaded podcast on Apple's Best of 2016 list, which celebrates the most popular content across the App Store, iTunes, Apple Music and iBooks.

WHYY received funding to transfer the 40-year collection of deteriorating audio tape to digital media in 2010.  In 2015, WHYY was awarded a two-year grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to create open and free access to its Fresh Air anthology.  The WHYY team in partnership with Drexel University Libraries and Telvue Corporation(r) established a digital asset management system, created metadata or descriptive info for the 8,000 recordings, integrated the metadata and audio files with WorldCat and produced a finding aid, available through the PACSCL website, to provide a secondary access point for the archived shows.

'We hope to have built a strong foundation that will open up countless possibilities for the archive including app usage, incorporating Fresh Air episodes into high school and college curriculums and providing content for future news stories,' said Danny Miller, co-executive producer for Fresh Air.

Tory Harris
Public Information Manager
(215) 351-1243

The Fresh Air archive was made possible by a generous grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).


WHYY advances civic life through storytelling, arts, education and civic dialogue. As the region's leading public media provider and PBS/NPR member station, WHYY's multimedia outreach includes WHYY-TVWHYY-FM, WHYY's award-winning online home for news and civic dialogue, and 'off-air' community forums, artistic performances, lectures and media education programs through the Dorrance Hamilton Public Media Commons.  WHYY produces several award winning, broadcast programs such as Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, You Bet Your Garden with Mike McGrath and weekly health and science show The Pulse.