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WASHINGTON (AP) — Early interviews with John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Ronald Reagan are part of a collection of public broadcast recordings dating to the 1950s that will be preserved at the Library of Congress.

Under a project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and announced Thursday, 40,000 hours of radio and television content is being digitized for long-term preservation at the library. It will become the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and will be housed at the library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in underground vaults in Culpeper, Va.

Recordings of Kennedy and Humphrey come from Twin Cities Public Television’s coverage of the 1960 presidential primaries. There is also a commentary by George Lucas on his first “Star Wars” movies from KUSC in Los Angeles and 1967 interviews with then-California Gov.Ronald Reagan from Boston’s WGBH.

The archive, made up of contributions from about 120 stations nationwide, also is rich with regional programming, curators said. There is a series on the history of southwest Florida, films of performances of an acclaimed organist at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and shows on the space program.

“It’s an incredible collection for local and regional history that has not been shown to the rest of the country,” said curator Alan Gevinson of the library’s audio-visual conservation center. “A lot of what stations picked as what they really wanted to preserve were shows about their own areas.”

Public, education-related radio dates to the 1920s, and public TV goes back to the 1950s — before the creation of NPR and PBS.

“But as far as archiving, nothing really had been done, and certainly not at this scale, until now,” Gevinson said.

Public broadcasting officials began creating an inventory of significant recordings held by stations in 2007, resulting in 2.5 million records. That list was narrowed for the archive.

To date, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has spent about $8.5 million on the archive project. It awarded a $1.1 million grant to the Library of Congress and WGBH to house the archive.

The project will make the recordings available to researchers and the public at both the library and WGBH in Boston over the next two years. The station helped coordinate the archival project.

Digitized recordings will eventually be made available online with the permission of copyright holders, Gevinson said. The library also hopes to create exhibits based on the collection.

Congress urged the creation of a public broadcast archive at the time when stations were converting to digital transmission and encouraged the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to spend some federal funds on the project.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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