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The Radio Drama Project 1977 - 2015

The Concordia Center for Broadcasting Studies (CCBS) has been the archival depository for the radio drama output of our national Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) since 1981.  This comprehensive collection of more than 20,000 producer copies of original radio drama scripts as well as many more thousands of copies of scripts annotated by directors, actors and musical conductors, and a significant amount of adjoining ancillary materials (letters from listeners, internal memos, and various organizational information) date from 1925 to the present. These materials are the production of the CBC (1936) and its former institutions, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (1932) and the Canadian National Railroad Radio Department (1925). Since 1975 the archive has been supported by Concordia University. The CBC radio drama archive is a unique collection; its catalogue meeting international library standards and whose holdings compare well with French language archives in Quebec and collections in France, the U.K. and elsewhere abroad. This is the most comprehensive national radio drama archival treasure in Canada. Its holdings and bibliography significantly compliment a scattering of partially catalogued CBC sound recordings located in the National Archive and Library and other Canadian universities by making the audio recordings searchable.

This ongoing project has as main goal the creation of a software and hardware infrastructure for an on-line research tool.

The infrastructure will enable the creation of an online research tool of these CBC radio drama scripts from producers and ancillary materials. The research tool is designed to provide interdisciplinary scholars from the humanities and social sciences in Canadian studies to have  virtual and instant access to the archive. The digitalization of the archive opens new ways of working directly and easily with this rich historical material. Producer’s scripts are selected to narrow the size of the task of scanning and optical character recognition and because they are the final versions used for broadcasts. Scanning and digitally storing the contents of the producer’s copies and the ancillary materials, which consists of over 800,000 pages of scripts, and over 400,000 pages of other paper documents, will develop the research tool.

NADP 2011-2012 Grant Proposal- The Radio Drama Project (Réseau des services d’archives du Québec/Conseil canadien des archives - Programme national de développement des archives)

The requested project will produce an online archive and research tool that will make an important selection of Canadian radio drama scripts (not sound productions) available for the first time. This significant piece of Canadian patrimony has been held in a paper archive at the Concordia Center since 1975.  Our project proposes to digitalize the collection of both original plays and adaptations  from the  CBC Stage and Wednesday Night series, two theatre series that date from 1944 to 1969. These two series, consist of around 600 plays (36,000 pages), of which half are original one or two hour Canadian plays and half are Canadian adaptations of international works."CBC Stage was a national showcase for the best Canadian dramatic talent in writing, acting and composing, an acknowledged National Theatre." (Howard Fink, in Radio Drama, ed. Peter Lewis, 1981, pp 237.). The four main producers of these two CBC series were Andrew Allan, (who came from the Vancouver studios in 1944 to head the new team); Esse W. Ljungh (Winnipeg) , J. Frank Willis (Halifax) and Rupert Caplan (who continued to produce in  Montreal) .

The proposed online archive is designed to provide the public and interdisciplinary scholars from the humanities and social sciences in Canadian studies virtual and instant access to the archive, as well as widening the access to these radio scripts to the public at large. Our clientele varies from secondary school teachers to university professors, from English Literature, Theatre and Humanities, to the public at large interested in Canadian literature, theatre or Canadian Radio. We have visitors from all over Canada to the archive, and from outside the country as well.

The digitalization of the archive opens new ways of working directly and easily with this rich historical material. Traditionally researchers have had to travel to Concordia University to access the material but the infrastructure provides a research tool that will enable material to be brought to the researchers online. For the first time script files  would be programmed in a way that allow easy searches and indexing made available via digital scanning for online computer assisted research. By using a digital rights management system, online accessibility to the archive would be bound by fair use agreement as defined by Canadian and international copyright law. This project will thus not only enable the already existing researchers to advance but also a much broader base of researchers and individuals to gain access to the material for the first time; enabling researchers from Canadian regions and from abroad to study material whereby before travel would have restricted access – thereby helping to establish national and international research networks.

The project is thus timely because travel costs continue to escalate and Canadian Studies scholars’ opportunities for travel to archival sites are becoming more limited. Secondly, the software and hardware technology needed for high through-put scanning, storing, and providing a search engine for these documents is now available at a reasonable cost.

The online archive content will be  in English, as the original broadcasts. However, the web interface which will provide access to the archive will be bilingual (English/French).

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