James Voges (Vincent Voice Library) prepares one of the transcription discs for playback

WKAR Radio is a public broadcasting station on the campus of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan. The radio station was officially licensed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on August 18, 1922, and given the randomly assigned call letters WKAR1. August 18, 2022, marks the 100-year anniversary of that momentous occasion. In an effort to commemorate the anniversary, a pair of 16″ transcription discs from the 25-year celebration in 1947 at Michigan State College (MSC) were preserved and digitized in order to make the recorded content more easily accessible.

Transcription discs are a type of grooved media popularized during the 1930’s as radio broadcasting corporations sought to record and distribute content to their syndicated radio stations2. Completing its birthday anniversary celebration Monday [August 18, 1947] afternoon, WKAR presented an hour-long Silver Anniversary program featuring the “Spirit of MSC”, and a group of “citizen-listeners” who delved into the last quarter century to trace the growth and maturity of the MSC radio station3. The two transcription discs that were digitized each contain two fifteen-minute sides of the recorded program. The first side of the first disc begins the recorded content from the silver celebration; the first side of the second disc picks up from there, and so on.

Voges applies record cleaning solution to the transcription disc

In anticipation of the upcoming 100-year anniversary date, Audiovisual Archivist Matthew Wilcox selected the discs from the MSU Archives & Historical Collections’ WKAR Radio Broadcasting records (UA The discs were assessed by James Voges at the Vincent Voice Library (VVL), where he determined that they were in very good condition. With the assistance of Rick Peiffer, Equipment Technologist at the VVL, the proper stylus and cartridge for the tonearm were chosen for optimum playback quality.

The discs were digitized by Voges on a turntable designed for playback of 16″ transcription discs. Unlike a conventional record player, which plays a record from the outside inward, a transcription turntable plays a disc from the inside outward. The grooves on a transcription disc are wider than those of a commercial LP record, so care must be taken to ensure that the proper stylus is used for playback.

Voges gently wipes the disc clean with a microfiber cloth

The recordings are now available for listening online. The website On the Banks of the Red Cedar (https://onthebanks.msu.edu/) provides online access to documents and audiovisual materials related to the history of MSU, and the direct links to the 1947 recordings are listed below.

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4

  1. WKAR Radio Broadcasting records (UA finding aid https://findingaids.lib.msu.edu/repositories/2/resources/283
  2. Laney, Mike. Media Preservation at MSU Libraries: Transcription Discs https://mediapres.commons.msu.edu/2020/09/29/transcription-discs/
  3. Michigan State University. (1925). Michigan State news. East Lansing, Mich: Michigan State University. August 20, 1947, p. 2