Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center and BBC Radio 4 make “Letter from America” broadcasts available online

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2012

CONTACT: Carol Kerbaugh, 617-353-2240,  

(Boston) – The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center (HGARC) at Boston University is working in collaboration with the British Broadcasting Corporation Radio 4 (BBC Radio 4) to make the manuscripts and audio broadcasts of Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America available online.

With the launch of HGARC’s new Alistair Cooke website, researchers can now study the details of Cooke’s typescripts with his edits, additions and corrections. One can also link instantly to the pages of BBC Radio 4 to hear the voice that, for nearly six decades, provided the United Kingdom insight into American life. BBC Radio 4 has digitized the original audio of more than 900 LFA broadcasts as part of this effort to preserve the work of the broadcasting giant.

HGARC is home to the Alistair Cooke Collection, featuring notebooks, printed material, correspondence, audio, photographs, scrapbooks, film and awards from Cooke’s career. Included in the collection are nearly 2,500 of the manuscripts read by Cooke during his Letter from America broadcasts, which covered such topics as civil rights, presidential elections, movies and popular culture, and the weekly events of the United States over nearly six decades. The combination of audio and original manuscripts will serve as a resource for scholars and fans and the collaboration will enhance Cooke’s legacy.

“Cooke’s work helped millions of British people understand why Americans vote the way they do, talk the way they do, and think the way they do,” says Vita Paladino, Director of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. “The collection of his work is a rich resource for understanding American life, politics and culture. It’s a moving experience to see someone from another country capture the essence of America and present it to the world.”

As host of Omnibus and Masterpiece Theatre, Alistair Cooke (1908 – 2004) came to be seen as an arbiter of arts and entertainment for many Americans and, as such, he became a television icon. Over a long and distinguished career, he proved to be a consummate journalist and an insightful social historian. For more than a quarter century, Cooke was the United States correspondent for the British newspaper the Guardian. In addition, he filed a weekly “Letter from America” on BBC Radio, a 15-minute broadcast. Between 1946 and 2004, Cooke broadcast nearly 3,000 Letters from America segments. He received numerous accolades and honors in his lifetime, including three Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award for International Reporting, and several honorary degrees. In 1973, Cooke was made a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University seeks to capture and document history by collecting the manuscripts from individuals who play significant roles in the fields of journalism, poetry, literature and criticism, dance, music, theater, film, television, and political and religious movements. The Center preserves the documents and makes them readily available to researchers while administering all legal copyrights and restrictions. The Center also presents extensive exhibitions, seminars and tours for students, parents, alumni, various visiting groups and members of the public.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 16 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.