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American Revolution Documentary Archive

UMass Amherst Libraries and Lichtenstein Creative


UMass Amherst Libraries and Lichtenstein Creative Media announce the launch of The American Revolution Documentary Archive, a collaborative project between the producers of an upcoming documentary film, The American Revolution, and UMass Amherst Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives.

The collection makes accessible to scholars and the community hundreds of hours of rare audio and video recordings and films; tens of thousands of photographs; letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral histories; posters; memorabilia; artwork; and other materials gathered from the public and then digitized and cataloged by the Peabody Award-winning Lichtenstein Creative Media with UMass Amherst for use in the film.

A concert to benefit the documentary film The American Revolution will be held on Wednesday, November 20, at West End Johnnie’s in Boston. Bluesman James Montgomery and other Boston music legends will perform an evening of rare, acoustic blues. Tickets are available at for a $25 tax-deductible donation. Tax-deductible donations to the non-profit production can also be made at the web site. “In its early days, WBCN was the hub of enormous musical, social and political activity in Boston much of which had a national impact,” says James Montgomery. “The blues were at the heart of it, and we’ll celebrate the roots of blues in this special evening of music.”

The American Revolution, due out next year for theatrical and public television release, looks at the underground radio station WBCN-FM during the late-1960s and early-1970s. The archive is a vast set of audio/visual material focusing on underground media in the Boston area and its impact on the profound social, political and cultural changes that took place during that time. The film explores a period of dramatic social change in America and the means by which change was effectuated. Bill Lichtenstein, who worked at WBCN starting while in junior high school in 1970 when he was just 14 years old, said "We are thrilled about working with UMass Amherst Special Collections to create, preserve and make available to the public this unprecedented collection of materials from this amazing and tumultuous era.”

This important and valuable archival collection reflects the experiences of the turbulent generation of the 1960s and 1970s and is centered on activities in the Boston area. The collection includes the work of photographers, journalists, and writers who would go on to prominence; as well as activists, artists and everyday people who witnessed and took part in an extended public conversation on the direction of our nation.

“The value of the American Revolution archive lies in the fact that WBCN was more than just a radio station; it was a voice for a community of young people dedicated to changing the world,” says Rob Cox, head of Special Collections and University Archives. “It is difficult to imagine a more creative array of writers, artists, musicians, and photographers than those who worked for, and were connected by, the radio station. Their contributions will make a wonderful addition to our collections on social change.”

A grant from Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, funds the opening of a preliminary online exhibition that will serve as a point-of-entry into this unique collection.

Lichtenstein began thinking about the film in 2005, but a production challenge immediately emerged: the radio station had no tapes of broadcasts from its early days and there were no organized collections of photos, film or other material from the era.

“We wanted to tell the story of the era through the original sights and sounds. So in the absence of any formal archives, we reached out to those who lived through it and who in many cases kept their archives of this extraordinary era.”

Lichtenstein and his colleagues began crowdsourcing archival material from WBCN listeners and supporters. The response they received was immediately supportive as nostalgic WBCN listeners rallied around the making of this film, offering up their stories, photographs, recordings and footage to contribute to what Lichtenstein describes as the first “open source” documentary.

The UMass Amherst Libraries is the largest state-supported academic library system in New England. With more than 8 million distinct items that span print and digital media, much of it is available to the campus community and the wider world around the clock, from virtually anywhere.

The Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives is home to distinguished manuscript collections documenting the history of social change in America, including the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois, Horace Mann Bond, and U.S. Congressman Silvio O. Conte. The recent acquisition of the Mark H. McCormack Papers, a gift from the family of the pioneering sport marketer and IMG founder, represents the largest single philanthropic gesture ever to the University of Massachusetts system.



For more information on the archives: Rob Cox,, 413-545-6842, Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.

For more information on the film: Bill Lichtenstein, Lichtenstein Creative Media, 917-635-2538,,