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JPR teams with Texaco on archives

ASHLAND ' Jefferson Public Radio has been given the archives and memorabilia from 63 years of the Texaco-Metropolitan Opera to display in its planned Western States Museum of Broadcasting.

The gift was made because of JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer's 20 years as volunteer consultant with the show, helping Texaco with affiliate relations and helping to promote the often underappreciated musical form of opera.

Ron has been a great friend to the Metropolitan Opera and has always been there to share ideas and offer support and help, said Ellen Goodman of the Met's radio department. He's been a good friend and his museum makes a great place for this material.

Texaco last year donated artifacts, programs, banners, awards, articles and artwork, about the volume of two to three VW buses, said Kramer. The Met retains tapes of all music aired and sponsored by Texaco in the longest sponsorship in broadcast history.

— Since the Met does not have a museum to display such artifacts, Texaco has long intimated they wanted them here, where students, researchers and the public can use them, said Kramer. It will be the only public Met archive outside New York City, he added.

The 35,000-square-foot museum will be built during the 2005-2007 biennium in a new &

36;10 million JPR building on 2.6 acres at the corner of Ashland Avenue and Walker Street, providing the funds can be raised by the JPR Foundation.

The first step was taken Friday when the Oregon State Board of Higher Education approved Southern Oregon University's request for a seven-year lease with the JPR Foundation for the land.

JPR also has received the archives, photos and artifacts of KBPS-Portland, one of the oldest stations in the West and the earliest public radio station in the state.

Contributions to the museum so far include a rare collection of premium toys offered to children as enticements to tune into such shows as The Lone Ranger, Little Orphan Annie and Tom Mix.

JPR is negotiating with broadcasters for museum materials from the early days of broadcasting, including many in California and the Smullin family of Medford, which started KOBI-TV, the first television station in Southern Oregon.

In April 2002, the Texaco-Metropolitan Opera aired an 11-minute feature called Shakespeare on Stage produced by JPR, the only time a public radio affiliate contributed to the show.

We always had a strong audience for opera here, said Kramer, but some stations were not sympathetic to it, so Texaco asked my advice on managing relations with affiliates. I became volunteer chair of the affiliates council and host at affiliate meetings and that's how it went for two decades.

The opera collection needed a home after the Texaco merger with Chevron, said Kramer. Though the show was broadcast all over the world, Chevron felt it out of step with its mission and is forcing an end to the sponsorship.

The museum is very exciting, Kramer added. JPR is just in the beginning stages of thinking the museum through conceptually, but we've received a lot of commitments (from donors) and feel it will be a very useful facility, interpreting the relevance and influence of broadcasting in the West and not just a display of equipment.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.