An award-winning exhibition (and book) broadcasts the latest on Canadian community radio.
A large 1930s-era radio – the kind that looks more antique furniture than electronica – occupies what little floor space is left over from the piles of books and other scholarly paraphernalia crowding Anne MacLennan’s tiny office on Keele Campus. The square wooden box sports a whiskey-coloured grill cloth and an art deco design. But it’s not meant as decoration. The vintage radio is a visible reminder of the award-winning research into Canadian radio’s potential for representative and inclusive broadcasting that the associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies has been pursuing since before moving to York University from her native Quebec in 2003. Her interest lies in how radio unifies and defines its listeners, a topic she is about to study in more depth with her current research project investigating production, programming and real-life practices and policies affecting Canadian community radio. “I’ve been looking at radio a long time,” says MacLennan with a strong, clear voice made for the airwaves. “It’s an indestructible type of media. It will survive the apocalypse.”
Radio’s longevity as a community builder formed the focus of Seeing, Selling, and Situating Radio in Canada, 1922-1956, an exhibition MacLennan helped organize for the Archives of Ontario and the Sound and Moving Image Library at York University last fall. Her accompanying book, co-authored with Michael Windover, an assistant professor of art history at Carleton University, explores the visual and material culture of radio in Canada and was published by Dalhousie Architectural Press in 2017. It recently took the bronze medal in the Popular Culture category at the Independent Publisher Book Awards whose 22nd annual edition took place in New York City in May. Another exhibition related to this research project is being planned for the Musée des Ondes Emile Berliner in Montreal later this year. The interest is there, MacLennan says, “because radio is back. Podcasts have people listening again. It’s not just old-timey stuff.”
Article originally appeared in York University Magazine in Fall 2018