Skidmore College students (left to right) Erin Baright; Nell Mittelstead; Elianne Paley; Henry Cooley; Andrew Knispel; Monica Hamilton and Jillian Siegel. Photo by Lori Mahan.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – If you are looking for commercial-free local radio, the Skidmore College radio station, WSPN 91.1 FM, is the place on the dial to go.
In 1972, WSPN became its own operation in the Case Center on campus, and then moved to the Jonsson Tower basement six years later. On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the station’s original charter and floor plans will be part of a multimedia exhibition held in the Case Center.
Nell Mittelstead is a senior English major at Skidmore and the current general manager for WSPN. She will leave behind the archive project as a legacy of her time at the college.
Mittelstead first began at the station as a freshman with her own HotBox radio show. Record promoters send new material to the station’s music directors, who then listen to it and decide what music would appeal most to Skidmore students. Those tracks are then featured on the show.
Mittelstead decided to create an archive exhibition of the station. Monica Hamilton, the current WPSN librarian, is also involved with helping the project come to fruition, among many other helpful students and school librarians.
“It really started off as me wanting to create a physical archive, but my original idea was a scrapbook. Just a small book of WSPN history,” said Mittelstead. “One of the librarians reached out to me because she had been a Skidmore student and had been a part of WSPN. So, we talked and had coffee and then she suggested I reach out to Wendy Anthony, who is in charge of special collections at Skidmore. Wendy had all of these original documents of WSPN when it was being started.”
“The station has become a place for people to share stories and talk about their passions and interests,” offered Hamilton. “I care about the station and am intrigued by all the stories that take place there. It’s a 24-hour station, so we may never know all of the stories.”
Some of the original documents Anthony had were program guides, the charter, floppy disks, old posters, newspaper articles about the station, audio clips from past shows, and floor plans. Other items featured in the exhibition came from within the studio itself, either found in desk drawers or hanging on the walls.
Since the idea came to be, Mittelstead was able to turn this passion project into a class where students could meet and do the archive project for credit in a pass or fail capacity. The archive exhibition is “really multimedia,” she said.
The class consists of five students on the radio board, one DJ, and one student not affiliated with the station at all.
“It’s been cool to work with someone who doesn’t really know what’s going on in the station and get an outsider’s perspective,” Mittelstead explained.
“A successful exhibition in general needs collaboration and opportunity to have feedback from other people,” said Hamilton.
“I’m interested in archive work on my own,” Mittelstead added, “and I felt myself wishing that I had some of that material and those documents. Just to know how WSPN got started. We didn’t really have that in the station, so I figured it would be nice and then just to have a sort of physical document about how a year went on. That’s what I wanted it to be; accumulating stuff throughout the year and making that into an object.”
On Tuesdays from 5 to 6 p.m., there is a WSPN show called “Archive Hour” where some students from the class, including Mittelstead, discuss the project and talk about some of the documents that they are including in the exhibition.
The radio show is “much more relaxed than the exhibition and class,” she explained.
The exhibition itself is described by Mittelstead as “a retrospective of WSPN.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 5 p.m. in the Case Center, the archive exhibition will be unveiled. To listen to WSPN, which broadcasts dozens of shows to peak various interests, tune in to 91.1 FM or visit the website https://academics.skidmore.edu/blogs/wspn/