TRACE - Tracking Radio Archival Collections in Europe, 1930-1960


Conflict and war are commonly understood to seriously impact cultural collections, but the current challenge is how to map this effectively. In this project, radio archival collections in Europe during and after World War II open a new door to specifying how cultural objects came to be part of the heritage of war. I propose a tripartite model for studying sound archival collections in terms of their 1) transformation, 2) relocation and 3) valorisation. Combining insights from archival, heritage and media studies, I analyse how radio collections were archived, circulated and used under conditions of war, occupation and reconstruction.

Sound collections in European radio were largely formed in national institutions: while early archival holdings included international recordings from relays, co-productions and disc exchanges, the context of World War II and military occupation produced large seizures and relocations of sound recordings. I posit that the first decades of radio collections – invested with political, cultural and economic value – offers a rich case for investigating what I term transnational conflict heritage. A comparative analysis of radio collections between 1930-1960 – focussing on radio collections in Western and Central/Eastern Europe –will test this thesis and reveal dominant patterns in the storage, circulation and valorisation of early radio recordings across Europe.

The insights from this project will contribute directly to the understanding of conflict heritage today by providing a historical perspective on cultural collections during and after war, and offering a novel approach for how to map transnational dynamics of collections in a comparative European framework. The project is not only an urgent contribution to theories of archives, heritage and media, and tools for digital humanities research, but also for developing strategies for how public institutions educate and engage the public about the impact of war on cultural collections.





Dr. C.J. Birdsall

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM)


Dr. C.J. Birdsall, Dr. C.R.A. Kaiser, A. Mudrak MA


01/01/2019 tot 31/12/2023