Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) was founded in 1967 in Collegeville, Minnesota by Saint John's University student Bill Kling with the support of Father Colman Barry, the president of the University from 1964 to 1971. Early MPR staff included Bill Kling (Station Manager, later the President and CEO of the American Public Media Group (APMG)), Tom Kigin (Editor of Preview magazine, later the General Counsel of APMG until his retirement in 2014), Gary Eichten (head reporter, later the host of Midday until his retirement in 2012), Garrison Keillor (host of the Morning Show, later the host of A Prairie Home Companion until his retirement in 2016), and Michael Barone (MPR music director for 25 years and broadcast host; producer of Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra programs and The New Releases; also The Organ Program and its nationally-syndicated outgrowth, PIPEDREAMS).
The first MPR station was KSJR, broadcasting both news and classical music. In a speech commemorating St. John's 150th anniversary, Bill Kling remembered the station's first broadcast:
KSJR signed on on January 22, 1967, while Colman dined at the Germain Hotel in Saint Cloud with supporters and a portable radio. Unfortunately, the station didn’t manage to get on the air until about five hours after the publicized time, and then perhaps only because of the prayers of Father Fintan Bromenshenkel, head of computer science, who paced the hall waiting and wishing he could offer assistance. It brought the surrounding community a menu of classical music, lectures, jazz, poetry, and even live stereo broadcasts of Saint John’s football. In many ways, lacking an NPR network of any type, these were stimulating days. The programmers had to work so hard to find quality programs that they scoured the country looking for the best and often struck gold. Sources like Ford Hall Forum in Boston and the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, and other sources that reflected my graduate school geography provided a stimulating flow of programming.
The MPR Archive largely consists of original news reporting/programing and recordings of regional classical music performances. There are few recordings from 1967 to 1971; reels of MPR daily news were saved regularly starting in 1972. For many years there was no comprehensive catalog or inventory of the archive, so its contents were mostly known by the people who created it, listened to it, and dug through it. Support from the Comer Science & Education Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the American Archive, and the Minnesota Legacy Amendment created the backbone of the Archive's access and preservation infrastructure. Grants continue to support the digitization of over 200,000 stories recorded to tape and disc. Currently there are two digitizers on staff, paid for by the Legacy Amendment and by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. From 2015-2017 they'll be digitizing tapes related to Minnesota cultural heritage and Minnesota's literary history, respectively, as well as any tapes requested for digitization by MPR News, other MPR staff or services, or the general public.
The MPR Archive has holdings in three locations in the Kling Public Media Center:
1. Eddy: All regional and national broadcasts are archived via MPR's Asset Management System "Eddy." Eddy is a MySQL database built by MPR's Software Applications Group. Eddy is both a catalog of the archive as we know it and digital repository for born-digital audio (from the 2000's to present day) along with digitized analog audio. Images and video to come.
2. Gary Comer Audio Archive: A temperature and humidity controlled holding facility in the basement of the MPR building, which stores a large collection of analog reels, DATs and CDs going back to the late 1960s. MPR has recently installed an FM-200 archival-grade fire suppression system in the Comer archive.
3. The Corporate Archive: Institutional history, including membership and marketing material, merchandise, large-format images, press clippings, and other memorabilia, located at MPR.
Please feel free to send us your questions or comments!