A Portland State University archivist has uncovered a box of reel-to-reel recordings of campus speeches by figures such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Robert F. Kennedy speaking a few short weeks before his assassination, Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling speaking on the effects of radioactive fallout a few months before the Cuban Missile crisis, and poet Allan Ginsberg.
The recordings had been stored in a warehouse after the format went out of use. Luckily, most were in nearly flawless condition and sound as clear as the day they were recorded. PSU has converted 275 hours of tape recordings to digital format. They are available on the web, starting with the most recent recordings from 1979 (when I briefly lived in Portland, but unfortunately did not attend any of these events) all the way back to the earliest from 1952. (Ignore the message on the website stating “This document is currently not available here” and scroll down to the image of the reel-to-reel tape deck to listen.)
These are full-length recordings and include the speaker introduction and audience questions. They are a fascinating and useful resource for speechwriters looking for content on a variety of topics as well as a record of cultural change in America from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.