Category Archives: Press Releases

National Recording Preservation Awards Grant to Preserve Mike Seeger Collection

National Recording Preservation Foundation Grants University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $25,000 for Audio Preservation

The National Recording Preservation Foundation Grant Program announced today a $25,000 grant to the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to help support archiving and preservation of more than 600 hours of rare sound recordings recorded by traditional musician and folklorist Mike Seeger.

The National Recording Preservation Foundation is an independent 401(C)3 mandated by an act of Congress to find, preserve and make accessible the recorded history of the United States – its music, broadcast, speeches and spoken word. The Foundation helps develop strategies, coordinate policies and fund the preservation of “The Sound of America.”

Says Executive Director Gerald Seligman, “The Southern Folklife Collection is an exemplary effort to locate, preserve and provide access to the cultural treasures of the extended region. The NRPF is proud to assist them in assuring Mike Seeger’s seminal collection will be available to students, researchers – and fans.”

Mike Seeger (1933-2009) was born into the first family of American folk music. His mother and father, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Charles Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of Folksong in the Library of Congress. His brother Pete was a member of the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, while his sister Peggy is highly regarded in traditional music circles. In 1958, Seeger helped form the seminal group the New Lost City Ramblers (NLCR), a musical trio reviving old-time string-band music from the 1920s and 30s. The NLCR greatly influenced several generations of musicians, including their contemporary, Bob Dylan.

From 1950s to the 2000s Mike Seeger collected interviews, made field and studio recordings with traditional musicians as well as documented their live performances and those of the NLCR. A number of the field recordings in the Seeger collection are the original unedited masters for classic releases Seeger produced for Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways) and Rounder Records. The Mike Seeger Collection provides invaluable documentation of the folk revival movement and historic performances by the finest traditional musicians of the era including those by Elizabeth Cotton, Hazel Dickens, Tommy Jarrell, Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb, Almeda Riddle and many others.

This grant allows us to preserve these national treasures and provide online access to the recordings for the first time,” says Steve Weiss, Curator of the Southern Folklife Collection.

Once digitized, the materials will be accessible online through the Southern Folklife Collection website.

http://library.unc.edu/wilson/sfc/

National Recording Preservation Foundation Gives Grant for Orson Welles Preservation

Rare Orson Welles recordings to be preserved and shared through Indiana University Libraries and the National Recording Preservation Foundation.
April 26th 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – With the assistance of a $25,000 grant from the National Recording Preservation Foundation to Indiana University Libraries, the university will preserve rare, original recordings of “The Orson Welles Show.” The live radio series produced by its iconic host and namesake debuted Sept. 15, 1941.

Previously, internet sites and books have stated that only eight of the 19 “Orson Welles Show” broadcasts have survived.

An IU-led preservation and digitization project, titled “Orson Welles on the Air,” will reveal the truth: Original lacquer discs containing 14 of the broadcasts, as well as other supposedly lost recordings, had been secured by Indiana University Libraries’ Lilly Library, one of the nation’s premier rare book and special collection libraries.

Preservation is a priority for the university, said Carolyn Walters, the Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries. As co-chair of IU President Michael A. McRobbie’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, Walters helps oversee the mission of safeguarding unique and rare media, such as the Welles discs.

“Considering the number of unusually rich holdings at Indiana University, MDPI is a remarkable and bold commitment, drawing well-deserved national attention,” Walters said. “We are proud to be a leader in preservation through MDPI, and to partner with the National Recording Preservation Foundation to save and share these Orson Welles treasures.”

Together, the “Orson Welles on the Air” materials represent the most complete original source of audio for Welles’ radio work during the late 1930s and 1940s, with the highest extant sound quality.

Erika Dowell, head of public services at the Lilly Library, said that along with digitization, the “Orson Welles on the Air” project will include the creation of an interactive website to provide context for the collections. Librarians will build an imaginative online experience, where users will be able to stream audio of the recordings, search Welles’ scripts and access expert commentary.

In announcing its grant to “Orson Welles on the Air,” National Recording Preservation Foundation Executive Director Gerald Seligman said: “That there were so many extant scripts and vulnerable recordings immediately piqued our interest. That they were housed in Indiana’s venerable Lilly Library gave us great confidence that such an important collection was in the right restorative hands. This aligns well with the NRPF’s mission: acting quickly to save original, master recordings in danger of degradation and loss. These contain episodes that do not survive anywhere else.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation is an independent 401(c)3 mandated by an act of Congress to find, preserve and make accessible the recorded history of the United States: its music, broadcast, speeches and spoken word. The foundation helps develop strategies, coordinate policies and fund the preservation of “The Sound of America.”

Mike Casey, IU’s director of technical operations for the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, said the foundation’s grant will assist digitization experts as they embark upon the preservation of 324 master sound recordings in the form of lacquer discs and about 100 accompanying paper scripts. The script pages show tangible evidence of Welles’ creative process in their dramatic deletions and seemingly last-minute rewrites.

Casey appreciates the rapid action by the National Recording Preservation Foundation, allowing the first stages of the project to begin in late summer 2016.

“Most lacquer discs have an aluminum or glass base with a black lacquer coating,” he said. “It contains the grooves that carry the sound. This is not a safe way to store a treasure — lacquer discs are inherently chemically unstable and sometimes fail catastrophically.”

Lilly Library records show that in the last three years alone, 90 researchers — from 19 states and 11 countries — have accessed the library’s extensive collection of Welles manuscripts. For scholars, it is a treasure house with its holdings of canonical Welles series such as “Mercury Theater on the Air,” “Campbell Playhouse” and the most complete known set of “The Doorway to Life.”

Despite renewed interest in Welles’ radio innovations, the body of recordings available for study has remained incomplete. A portion of the material to be digitized is, in fact, already available through other channels. The sound quality can be uneven, however, as some recordings are the result of multiple generations of copying by amateur tape-traders.

For Seligman, the proven commitment to open access at IU’s Lilly Library was a major motivation in supporting the Welles project.

“This is an exciting contribution to the legacy of American radio,” he said. “Orson Welles was a major creative force, responsible for some of the era’s most acclaimed innovations. He virtually invented narrative radio. The National Recording Preservation Foundation exists to find treasures such as these, and we are thrilled to find a credible partner at IU with the capacity and expertise to make them available to everyone.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation Becomes Operational Thanks to Generous Donation from Jack White

The contribution

The National Recording Preservation Foundation (NRPF) announces a major contribution of $200,000 from musician and NRPF Board member Jack White [1].

“The donation is very much a game changer,” says Executive Director Gerald Seligman. “It is our first and therefore provides the welcome opportunity to go from talk about the needs and priorities of audio preservation to concerted action. With this contribution we can now put up our basic structure, begin enacting the preservation plan — and give out our first grants. We’re committed to doing that right away, and certainly within the coming months.”

“Mr. White’s contribution to the Recording Foundation comes at an opportune time,” says Sam Brylawski, the Chairman of the National Recording Preservation Board, an affiliated project created by Congress in the same National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 that authorized the NRPF [2]. “With its national plan, the Library of Congress has laid the groundwork for the long-term preservation of our audio history but the challenges to achieving this at a significant scale are daunting. I hope that Mr. White’s extraordinarily generous donation inspires many others, especially those in the recording business — record companies, artists, songwriters, and others — to follow his lead to help ensure that we are able to preserve and make accessible recent and historical recordings at risk of loss.”

Each Board member demonstrates valuable ways to contribute, from lending time, talents, advice and expertise to sharing contacts and helping reach the people best placed to further the Foundation’s objectives. At this key moment, Jack White has provided the means to get the Foundation up and running.

What is the National Recording Preservation Foundation?

The NRPF aims to help stem the flow of serious losses to America’s unparalleled radio, music and recorded sound heritage. “Sound archives have reached a critical point in their history marked by the simultaneous rapid deterioration of unique original materials, the development of expensive and powerful new digital technologies, and the consequent decline of analog formats and media,” explained Board member George Massenburg, the renowned producer, engineer and educator. “It has long been clear to most sound archivists that our old analog-based preservation methods are no longer viable and that new strategies must be developed in the digital domain.”

What will the Foundation work to preserve? “American music is one of our true national treasures,” says Board member Bob Santelli, the Executive Director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. “Preserving our greatest recordings is both necessary to our identity and important for future generations as a source of inspiration and cultural knowledge.”

But the scope is broader still. “The mission goes beyond music to include radio, broadcast, speeches, poets, spoken word, oral histories, field recordings — the very soundtrack of the nation,” says Board member and radio producer Davia Nelson. “The Foundation seeks to discover and preserve lost audio treasures as well as the most iconic of recordings that deserve another listen and share them with the public, to educate, entertain and delight,” she adds, something she knows much about due to her ground-breaking work as one half of NPR’s Kitchen Sisters.

By law and inclination, the Foundation intends to go beyond the archives, collections and libraries and into the lives of the population by making these treasures accessible to all. Education, research, preservation, pleasure, that is the mission at hand. It is a process made easier than ever before due to online tools and ubiquity.

The NRPF… The Finer Details

The National Recording Preservation Foundation is the independent, nonprofit charitable corporation established by the U.S. Congress for the purpose of supporting archives, libraries, cultural institutions and others committed to preserving America’s radio, music and recorded sound heritage. Where appropriate, it will also assist privately-held collections and commercial archives that may have been damaged through the ravages of time or random acts of nature when those holding them cannot do so with their own resources. And, finally, it will help to further database and digitize our vast and often hidden treasures — delivering them to the nation at large.

“Congress understood the need to preserve and protect our Nation’s sound recordings when they created the National Recording Preservation Foundation,” says John Simson, the Foundation’s Chairman and former Director of Sound Exchange. “It is a crucial task at hand, working to identify collections of recordings that are at risk, that are in need of archival resources, that are in need of a home.”

Independence and Collaboration…

The NRPF is a private/public partnership, that works closely with the Library of Congress and its experts, and is dedicated to putting into practice the priorities and procedures of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 and the National Recording Preservation Plan [3]. But it maintains an independence that lends it great flexibility in fund raising and the setting of priorities and practices. These are largely determined according to the broadest concerns of the preservation community at large and the guidelines of the Foundation’s advisors and Board of Directors. It is therefore uniquely positioned to raise the necessary funds, marshal the expertise of skilled professionals, and reach out to the recorded sound community, collectors and archives to build support for preserving our nation’s audio treasures.

The National Recording Preservation Foundation… Up and Running…

“The establishment of the National Recording Preservation Foundation as a separate charitable and nonprofit entity constitutes one of the most important actions by the Library of Congress in fulfilling the mandates of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000,” says Patrick Loughney, the Director of the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation at Library of Congress and an advisor for, and advocate of, the NRPF. “In securing its first major donation, the Foundation takes a major step toward accomplishing one of the recommendations of the National Recording Preservation Plan, which calls for developing sustained private and public sector funding to support the preservation of recorded sound collections held by libraries, archives and other cultural institutions across America which lack the resources and expertise to preserve their important collections and make them publicly accessible.”

“After several years in planning, we are thrilled that we can finally join the mission of helping to preserve the riches of America’s recorded heritage,” says Executive Director Gerald Seligman. “We hope to reinforce the good work already being done and to help fund far more of it through the contributions we seek and will, in turn, distribute. The goal here is preservation and access, bringing the wealth of our recorded heritage to the public. America’s cultural treasures are to be savored by all. Stay tuned for key events, and by all means, help us if you can.”

Notes

[1] Jack White first came to prominence as a member of the White Stripes, a group that was active from 1997 to 2011. He has been awarded nine Grammys in seven different categories, most for his work under his own name and that of the White Stripes but several with other groups with which he has been associated.

Mr. White runs his own label, Third Man Records, which highlights a special interest in vinyl issues and releases. To date the 200-plus releases have covered Jerry Lee Lewis, the Smoke Fairies, Wanda Jackson, Black Milk and Stephen Colbert, Blind Willie McTell, Charlie Patton, The Mississippi Sheiks and many others, demonstrating an eclecticism inspired by broad musical interests. Third Man Records also released Mr. White’s 2012 chart-topping debut solo album Blunderbuss.

[2] The NRPF was one of three components established by an act of Congress in the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. The Act aims to form a comprehensive national program to ensure the survival, conservation, and increased public availability of America’s sound recording heritage. The other two components are the National Recording Registry and the National Recording Preservation Board, whose objective is to advise on the selection criteria for the Recording Registry and to review and recommend nominations for the Registry.

[3] For a copy of the National Recording Preservation Plan, see: http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/PLAN%20pdf.pdf