The ARChive of Contemporary Music
Preserving History, One Song at a Time…
The ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) contains more than three million sound recordings. That’s 90 + million songs. They have preserved copies of each version of every recording, in all known formats, and have electronically catalogued more than 400,000 sound recordings and digitized 200,000 with their partners the Internet Archive – more than any other public, university or private library in America!
Politismos Museum had the opportunity to speak with Bob George, the co-founder and director of the ARChive of Contemporary Music.
George is deeply committed to the mission of ARC, both professionally and personally.
In fact, the initial donation to ARC of 47,000 discs came from his own personal collection!
Tell us a little bit about the Archive of Contemporary Music.
The ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) is a not-for-profit archive, music library and research center located in New York City since 1985.
In addition to the sound recordings, ARC also houses more than three million pieces of attendant support material including photographs, videos, DVDs, books, magazines, press kits, sheet music, ephemera and memorabilia. The ARChive collects, preserves and provides information on the popular music of all cultures and races throughout the world from 1950 to the present.
Our databases and collection are source material for a great many research services and projects, from small, like finding a song for the Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball, to massive, using our collection to scan cover art for inducted recordings at the new Grammy Hall of Fame and Museum in LA. The Music Industry database was used to help launch Entertainment Weekly Magazine.
How did the idea for ARC come about?
I tried to give away my recording, but in 1985 no established library or archive was interested in my recordings – primarily African, reggae, punk, hip-hop and experimental music. So with another friend I started ARC – with a donation of 47,000 discs from my personal collection.
Can people access your catalogs online?
Our major focus is digitization of our collections – making all that we have collected more accessible to everyone.
The Great78project, created with our partners at the Internet Archive will digitize the 300,000” 78rpm discs we have collected – so far digitized we’ve 65,000. You can listen here https://archive.org/details/georgeblood for free. These older shellac discs have been listened to by more than 7 million people so far! New donations include hundreds of Latin 78s and more than 40,000 coming in from Denmark.
We’ve also been digitizing our books, many of them hard to find in other libraries. Now you can borrow 3,000 of our music books online.
We currently host information on 270,000 recordings on our online catalog: http://arcmusic.org/catalogs/recordings/
For Greek music lovers, what can they find at ARC? Are there plans to grow a “Greek” collection and how can people get involved?
The Greek Music Collection at the ARC is in its early stages of development. It is being created through the efforts of Renee Pappas, an ARC supporter and Greek Music lover. Our collection is quite small now – about 400 LPs and 80 78rpm recordings. Also some books and memorabilia. Anyone can borrow the books online, like Greek Dances by Theodore Petrides, or Road to rembetika : music of a Greek sub-culture by gail Holst-Warhaft.
Recently people have donated an additional 200 Greek 78rpm discs. So ARC is asking people around the world to consider donating Greek music in any format. If 78s are donated they will be digitized right away.
Our great hope is to find a donor to support and build the collection and create a world-class study center. This is what we have created with Keith Richard and the Keith Richards’ Blues Collection – now more than 13,000 discs. We have also built an amazing French music collection in the same way when Jean Gallia donated the 6,000 mint condition LPs and seven-inch singles he amassed as a French-language radio DJ.
What’s your favorite piece in the collection?
Impossible to answer!
Any big plans for 2018?
We hope to finish digitizing our 400,000 CDs this year. We will be the first institution to make sure that all the texts and booklets/lyrics associated with a CD are ORR readable and searchable. We are not sure if the physical object will outlive the digital, so we’re preserving both. Out major event is our record sale where we sell off extra copies. This year it will be on June 9-24 here in New York.
Look for a benefit Party in the fall!
ARC is on Facebook and Twitter – be sure to follow for news and updates!