Project featured by NEH

The University of Michigan’s project, “Ethical Access to Music Time in Africa,” is a featured project on “Tune In Tuesdays,” a blog series by the National Endowment for the Humanities highlighting NEH funded projects that preserve and provide access to audiovisual resources.  The blog post is a lead in to a one-day symposium on audiovisual preservation held on 30 September 2016.

Read the full blog post here.


A brief history of Music Time in Africa

Music Time in Africa was first broadcast exclusively to African nations on May 1965 by the Voice of America, a federal agency that is part of the United States Information Agency. Production for the weekly radio broadcast began in Liberia’s VoA Program Center, under the direction of musicologist Leo Sarkisian, then relocated permanently to the VoA headquarters in Washington DC in 1968, when VoA appointed Leo as Music Director of the Africa Division. He continued to travel to Africa through 1985 to make live field recordings in over 35 countries through 1985. He also promoted the program by developing marketing strategies, responding in person and in

Leo Sarkisian and Rita
Leo Sarkisian and Rita Rochelle

writing to fans, keeping in contact with musical artist and their communities, and hiring charismatic co-hosts: Bryn Poole (1965-1968), Susan Moran (1969–1978), Rita Rochelle (1978–2005), Matthew Lavoie (2005–2012), and Heather Maxwell (2012–present). Leo Sarkisian directed MTiA through his semi-retirement in 2004 and his full retirement in 2012, at the age of 91. In 2012 the Library of Congress added one of Leo Sarkisian’s Music Time in Africa radio programs to the National Registry of Recorded Sound. The July 29, 1978 program—music from Mauritania—was enshrined with twenty-four other recordings, including Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence,” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

The University of Michigan has acquired the Leo Sarkisian music library on loan from the Voice of America and is in the process of digitizing nearly 1,000 Music Time in Africa radio programs and scripts for eventual re-broadcast through the Web.


UMSI receives NEH Grant

Sarkisian Library Tapes 10

In spring 2016, the University of Michigan School of Information received a grant to fund ethical access to the radio show Music Time in Africa, which is the oldest continuously operating broadcast to the African continent. The $260,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant will help make an archive of African music and radio programming available to US and global audiences. The grant period began on June 1, 2016 and ends May 31, 2018. Co-principal investigators include Kelly M. Askew, U-M professor of anthropology and Afroamerican and African studies, and University of Michigan Associate Professor Paul Conway. Shannon Zachary, head of preservation and conservation at MLibraries, and Robert McIntyre, digital asset management consultant at the MLibraries, will also work on the project along with teams of UMSI students.


The MediaPreserve™ to digitize Music Time in Africa

The University of Michigan has chosen the Pittsburgh-based audiovisual laboratory MediaPreserve™ to digitize audio files for the Voice of America’s Music Time in Africa radio program as part of an initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. MediaPreserve™ was founded in 2006 as a specialized laboratory focused on the digital reformatting of the full range of heritage audiovisual resources.  MediaPreserve’s parent organization, Preservation Technologies, has become a trusted source of mass digitization for the University of Michigan.



Leo Sarkisian Collection comes to University of Michigan


In 2015 the Voice of America loaned the African Music Collection of the Leo Sarkisian archives to the University of Michigan School of Information for study, cataloging, and digitization.Two tons of material was transferred on January 22, 2015.These four pallets of material contain original field recordings, the Music Time in Africa radio broadcasts, and various other records. The University of Michigan has laid plans to digitize many of the radio programs and then produce an extensive online archive over the next few years.