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WAMU records

 Collection 0074-MMC-NPBA

WAMU is a public radio station owned by American University in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1948 as a low-power, student-run radio station, WAMU was granted a non-commercial broadcast license in 1961 and joined the infant National Educational Radio Network, a predecessor to NPR. In 1971, it became a founding member of National Public Radio.

The WAMU archives include material from 1952 to 1992 with the bulk of the materials dating between 1970 to 1990. Materials in this collection include clippings, correspondence, program guides, legal documents, photographs, press releases, advertisements, and reports.


  • 1955-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1970-1990

Use and Access to Collection

There are no restricted files in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


11.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The WAMU archives include material from 1952 to 1992 with the bulk of the materials dating between 1970 to 1990. Materials in this collection include clippings, correspondence, program guides, legal documents, photographs, press releases, advertisements, and reports.

Administrative History

WAMU 88.5 FM is the leading public radio station for NPR news and information in the greater Washington, DC area. It is member-supported, professionally-staffed, and licensed to American University. Since 1961, WAMU has provided programming to a growing audience that now totals more than 575,900 listeners in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Beginning in 1948, students at American University used homemade transmitting facilities to operate a campus radio station, WAMC. In 1950, the station was robbed of every possession, but by the following year, the station was back on the air as WAMU-AM, a 25 watt campus station. In 1953, American University and the Evening Star Newspaper joined to build a television building on campus, and WAMU secured new studios within the building. In 1961, WAMU moved from AM to FM and signed on from the campus of American University at 4 pm on October 23rd, using a 4,000-watt transmitter purchased from WGBH Boston. As the sixth member of the Educational Radio Network -- the predecessor to National Public Radio -- WAMU's founding vision was to "provide attractive, challenging programming that involves our listeners as completely as possible in the learning experience..."

In 1963, WAMU hired its first paid employees -- among them, Susan Stamberg and George Geesey. Armed with equipment secured through donations and scavenges of military surplus stores, WAMU covered some of the biggest events of the 1960s, including John F. Kennedy's assassination, the 1963 March on Washington led by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1964 Presidential election.

In 1978 the station moved off the American University campus, and was removed from American University subsidy due to financial constraints and a need for campus space. WAMU formed a new, non profit organization to run the station: Public Radio Services, Inc. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, WAMU made efforts to create a more consistent line up of programming, eliminating classical, rock, and big band programming, and focusing on bluegrass, jazz and news/talk.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, WAMU fundraisers brought increasing funds into the station, and in 1994, WAMU moved in to new, state-of-the-art facilities. In 1997, the station launched its website,, and within two years, began streaming all of its programming online.

In the 21st century, WAMU continues its commitment to provide a unique mixture of news, public affairs talk programming, and traditional American music both to the D.C. Metropolitan area, and to the world via the station's website.


The collection consists of eight series.

  1. Series 1: History
  2. Series 2: Organizational Information
  3. Series 3: Programming
  4. Series 4: Events
  5. Series 5: Advertising, Marketing and Budget
  6. Series 6: Clippings
  7. Series 7: Scrapbooks
  8. Series 8: Ephemera

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The WAMU archives were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives by WAMU in multiple accessions from 1992 to 2003.

Guide to the WAMU archives
Processed by Rachel Telford, February 2007.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2007-05-00: Guide revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2007-05-30: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2009-03-25: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2010-07-19: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2011-04-29: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2019-01-22: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2021-08-13: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742