----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Hirsch" <punto@xxxxxxxx>
As a comment to Steven:
I take the risk of being labeled a pedantic nitpicker, but I have to say
that your collection would absolutely be rejected by any self-respecting
archives since there is nothing archival about it (unless it is made up
or demos, one-offs of some sort or another), other than its
representation of the part of Stephen C. Barr's life spent amassing it.
It _WOULD_ most probably be most gladly accepted by some non-archive
repository (library or other entity dedicated to its format or genre).
It is not in any way a putdown when I say that archives are committed to
preserving unique, UNPUBLISHED (that is un-issued by recording company)
materials. I work for the same unit at NYPL that Matt does and we
routinely separate out (published) books, musical scores and recordings
that come in as part of archival collections and merge them into the
holdings of the library with a note in the guide to the collection
acknowledging their existence. Of course, if the item is annotated in
any significant way, that makes it unique and it is retained and
described in the guide.
And what you have neatly accomplished is to prove my point for me! The
number of demos, one-offs, and other unique or near-unique items is,
first, inherently limited by the number created...and, second, provides
no useful information about the aspects of everyday life in a past (and
thus, so far, non-recreatable) period of time. To me, one of the main
functions of a library or an educational institution is to provide for
its users what they usually wish to know...and that is how life was
lived by ordinary, everyday people at one or more points in the past.
In fact, having minored in history while in university, I found that
also to be a problem in history classes and textbooks...they went
into excruciating detail about the rulers, and said little or nothing
about what life might have been lived by the peasants!
There is, of course, good reason behind collecting and archiving
those unique items, since failing to do so would deprive the present
day of any record (pun unintended) that the recorded item or event
had ever taken place. However, in many cases, these items had little
or no effect on history (in any sense)...in some cases, they
represented "dead ends" in a development, while in others, they
went unheard (or un-whatever) by others in whatever field it was,
and thus had no influence.
Knowing that a, say, clarionet player, had been recorded playing
an otherwise unrecorded or unpublished piece of music...and that
the recording somehow was saved for posterity, along with the
information about it (which often has long since "gone missing"
when such items are found), tells us little (and that often
indirectly) about life was about at the time...even life for
whatever sub-group (racial, ethnic, economic, usw.) was like.
Listening to a group of popular recordings, OTOH, often tells
us much about the life of those who listened to them and made
One of the most enjoyable museum visits I have ever had was to
a small local museum in Goderich, Ontario. It was basically the
accumulation of an eccentric character who apparently dragged
home and saved many, if not most, of the discards of his
neighbours. As a result, once the items had been cleaned and
put in a neat (more or less) display, they effectively gave
the present-day visitors a snapshot of life as it had been
lived in Goderich (and similar communities) between c.1900
and c.1940. Had I been able, I would have offered to create
a perfect "soundtrack" for them by copying the recordings
which had been popular then!
We too often dismiss "everyday" material...especially while
it is passing through that (ever shorter) "awkward age" of
being too old to publicly admit to owning, but too new
to be of nostalgic interest...with a comment like "Oh,
those are too ordinary...they're all over the place!"
Somewhat later, we go looking for one of the item...and
discover that none survived, since they were all discarded
as being "too common!"
Steven C. Barr