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Re: [ARSCLIST] unknown artists and archives
----- Original Message -----
From: "Matthew Snyder" <msnyder@xxxxxxxx>
> >I think its wrong to deduce, as Steve does below, that "archivists think
> >terms of what is already viewed as 'worthy'." Some things, such as E.J.
> >Bellocq's Storyville Portraits, we only know about at all, because the
> >archive (in this case, MoMA) took a chance on something that wouldn't
> >looked like it was worth preserving. Photographs of prostitutes, anyone?
> David is basically correct, but I must add that the greatest tool an
> archivist has in appraisal (an archivist's term; it's what we're talking
> about here) is a MISSION STATEMENT. Meaning, your collection has a set of
> collection criteria. You collect within a certain time frame, or national
> origin, or cultural affiliation, or artistic movement, etc. The more
> specific your collection criteria is the easier it is do decide what you
> take and what you don't. Space, resources for processing, and other
> factors also come in, of course, but the collecting criteria you set out
> for yourself is in many ways the final arbiter of what comes in the front
> door, because you don't take "everything you possibly can"; that' s
> impossible. You take what best fits your collecting policy. NYPL Music
> Division concentrates on American music, a broad mandate, but then it's a
> big institution with (comparatively) deep resources in terms of processing
> capacity and storage.
> This doesn't mean that agonizing decisions don't have to be made (fairly
> often, in fact), but it is indeed a mistake to think that there is a
> preconceived notion of what is "worthy" on an artistic basis. It has much
> more to do with what is "worthy" according to your institution's mission.
Having started this thread, I should point out that what I meant by
"worthy" is the fact that "official" archivists...i.e. those often
employed by major libraries, particularly those related to "serious"
educational institutions, are generally more likely to preserve
(and/or WANT to preserve) sound recordings of classical artists
and material, along with those in "folk" genres ("folk" in the
ACTUAL, not record-store, sense of the description)...as opposed
to popular music (in particular music that lives up to the "popular"
description literally, which is often so omnipresent as to be
disregarded due to boredom if nothing else!).
My personal "archive" (of 78rpm records, mostly 1910-1950 or so)
represents a fair sampling of what was popular during that era...
mainly because record companies all issued their own versions
of popular songs until the late thirties. The concept of
different labels offering entirely different tunes by different
performers...the way the industry currently operates...seems
to have showed up once the "swing era" brought in a new,
younger demographic as record buyers, one which not only
wanted a given song, but a given performance of that song.
In 1928, one could choose between any number of versions of
a "hit" song...in fact, between vocal, dance-band, pipe-organ
or various other types of artists of the song if it became
popular enough. By 1958, the teenage record buyer wanted ONLY
the Elvis version of "Don't Be Cruel"...so, except for a
few anonymous-artist covers on bargain labels, that version
was the one stocked by record dealers!
However, I would imagine that most "serious" archives would
probably politely refuse my half-vast collection should I
offer it to them as a gift (and then probably share quite
a bit of laughter once I was out of earshot..."You wouldn't
BELIEVE the junk that crazy fellow wanted to give us...!"
Now, if I had a collection of field recordings of Slobbovian
peasants performing their ancestral tunes, accompanied on
the rare 13-string osklivost made from an actual tortoise
shell (with or without its original inhabitant...)...
Steven C. Barr