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National Recording Preservation Foundation Distributes $50,000 in grants for Audio Preservation, 2020

December 3, 2020

The National Recording Preservation Foundation’s Grant Program announced today the awarding of grants for the preservation of music, broadcast and spoken word. The grants cover collections, culture and history housed in United States-based collections. The grants are made possible by funds authorized through The Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2016, secured through the leadership of the Library of Congress, and the contributions of public-spirited donors.

“We are once again proud to help preserve audio recordings in a broad variety of areas by partnering with the country’s most effective archives, not-for-profit media outlets, libraries and foundations,” says NRPF Executive Director Gerald Seligman. “For this series of grants, we sought to support projects in broadcast, music, journalism and spoken word, all the areas of our concentration.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation mission is to help find, preserve and make accessible the recorded history of the United States and help recuperate collections in libraries, universities, foundations and public broadcasting stations.

The grants went to the following organizations:

For American Folk Art Museum: Digitization of Rare Interviews with ‘Outsider’ Artists

“With support from the National Recording Preservation Foundation, the American Folk Art Museum will digitize rare audio recordings of interviews with folk artists that were recorded by Charles B. and Janice M. Rosenak throughout their travels in the Southeast, Appalachia, and New Mexico from 1967-1988,” says Jason Busch, Director and CEO of the American Folk Art Museum. “These unique recordings capture the voices of some of the most prominent self-taught artists of the 20th century, primarily African American and Native American artists, that have been widely absent from the canon of American art.”

The interviews come from In Their Own Words: Digitizing the Hidden Recordings of Folk Artists’ Interviews from the Rosenak Collection in the American Folk Art Museum Archives.

“The project will enable a wider audience to access recordings of interviews with 26 iconic self-taught artists including Howard Finster, Sam Doyle, William Dawson, Lee Goodie, Malcah Zeldis, Leroy Felipe Archuleta, and others, all of whom are no longer living today,” says Ann-Marie Reilly, Director of Collections and Exhibition Production. “As AFAM prepares to mark its sixtieth anniversary in 2021, the project will be part of a broader celebration of our collection as we mark six decades of leadership in the field of self-taught art.”

For The Friends of Thomas Edison National Historical Park: Work on Extracting High-quality Sound from Sealed Master Molds

“We are gratified to receive this Grant for Audio Preservation from the National Recording Preservation Foundation,” says Larry Fast, Trustee, The Friends of Thomas Edison National Historical Park. “The money will fund research to determine best practices for digitizing Thomas Edison National Historical Park’s priceless collection of disc record ‘Master Molds.’ These metal molds contain the master recordings from inventor Thomas Edison’s catalog of music recorded in New York City and European cities during the 1910s and 1920s. The molds are too fragile to digitize via the traditional stylus-playback method, so we will digitize a pair of molds using the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s “IRENE” system. IRENE uses a non-contact 3-D scanner to recover audio from phonograph records. This is exciting research because an Edison Master Mold has never been digitized using IRENE.”

“For obvious reasons, the Edison archives hold so many of the prized recordings from the earliest years of recorded sound,” says Gerald Seligman. “We honor the importance of the collection and the care being taken to research the best, safest means to extract sound from the masters.”

For Iowa State University: the Digitization of a Diverse Lecture Series recorded from 1972 through the 1990s

Iowa State University has long had one of the most expansive series of lectures in the country. For this project they are focusing on lectures from the 1972 through the 1990s – 1640 hours, 259 reel-to-reel tapes, 732 audiocassettes all to be restored, digitized and made accessible via the university’s own sites and for the general public on their YouTube channel.

“We were impressed by the sheer range of speakers and subjects from the series, a veritable cross-section of culture, politics, the arts and sciences,” says NRPF Executive Director, Gerald Seligman. “Just a short list of some key names will give you an idea of the value of preserving the lectures: Robert Hollinger, Salvadore Allende, Judith Crist, N. Scott Momaday, Seymour Hersh, Ntozake Shange, Frances Fox Piven, Ramsey Clark, Denise Levertov, Maynard Jackson, Angela Davis, Benjamin Spock… the list goes on: Virgil Thompson, Czeslaw Milosz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Arthur Miller – and so many more.”

“We’re excited to honor Iowa State University’s land grant mission in sharing diverse and timely lectures from the Iowa State Lecture Series. Established in 1958 many of the original ISU Lectures speak to the issues our country is grappling with today, namely politics, science, race, gender, and sexuality,” says Rosie Rowe, AV and Film Preservation Specialist at the University. Adds Daniel Hartwig, Head, Special Collections & University Archives, “Our goal for the project is stimulate awareness and discourse, as well as center and magnify these voices and movements.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation is proud to offer this support.

For The Museum of Russian Culture: Preservation of 200 unique recordings from the Soviet and Tsarist Eras

The Museum of Russian Culture holds a rare and vulnerable collection of early recordings from folk balalaika orchestras to early Soviet dance music, Tsarist-era operatic divas to field recordings of Russian refugees in China. A wide variety of these historical audio documents will be digitized for the first time.

“The museum is very grateful to the NRPF for supporting the preservation and digitization of our collection of Russian musical recordings,” says Yves Franquien, Vice President of the Museum of Russian Culture, San Francisco. “Our archive contains a wide stylistic variety of Russian music produced all over the world, from Moscow to Shanghai, New York to Paris. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to digitize the rarest recordings, make them available online, and integrate them into the main exhibition of our museum.”

“The recordings to be digitized include pre-revolutionary operatic arias produced under Tsar Nicholas II and exceedingly rare Chinese pressings of Russian music marketed to imperial loyalists following the Russian Civil War,” adds Ryan Gourley, Project Manager and Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley. “These are extraordinary objects of immense cultural heritage, some of which have not been listened to for over a century.”

“As part of the Russian Center of San Francisco, the largest hub for Russian cultural activity in the American Pacific Northwest,” says Margarita Meniailenko, Chief Archivist, “the museum is dedicated to peaceful intercultural exchange. We look forward to collaborating with researchers in the United States and abroad on this unique project.”

For University of Alaska Fairbanks: Digitization of Recordings of the Unangax̂ (Alaska Aleut) Peoples

“The ‘Cuttlefish Project’ recordings are of immense Unangax̂ (Alaska Aleut) cultural importance due to not only the topics covered by Elders but because many of them were the last fluent speakers of the Unangam Tunuu language,” says Leslie McCartney, Associate Professor and Curator of Oral History at the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. “They are of the utmost importance to the Unangax̂ people themselves, for educators around the world who study the diversity of Indigenous people in the United States, and for worldwide linguists and historians.”

59 “Cuttlefish Project’ magnetic audio reels will be digitized and made accessible to researchers and the public. Each of the recordings will be cataloged in the UAF Library Catalog via WordCat. URLs will be placed directly into the library catalog record so, worldwide, anyone with an internet connection can listen to the recording directly from the library catalog record.

“We are especially proud to be associated with the Cuttlefish Project and its treasury of recordings,” says Gerald Seligman.

2020 Call for Proposals

Text to post on Call for Proposals

The National Recording Preservation Foundation

Call for Proposals

Open call for proposals for grants from the National Recording Preservation Foundation. Individual grants will be awarded up to $20,000 each. The following projects are eligible: preservation and/or archiving, digitization, collection appraisal and planning, material or professional conservation, and the creation of means for public and or research access to collections.

Ideally, we would like to fund projects in each of the following areas: broadcast, spoken word and music, but awards will be made solely on the basis of the proposals themselves.

Deadline: September 15, 2020

Grant Awards Announced: October 15, 2020

The National Recording Preservation Foundation offers grants to non-profit archives, libraries, museums, universities and other entities engaged in the preservation of audio materials that demonstrate cultural or historical importance and are held within the United States of America. In rare cases we may offer grants to commercial entities if a case can be made for the material’s cultural and historical value, the commercial holder cannot fund such preservation itself and a partnership exists with a non-profit entity in the field. Projects leading only to commercial release without an archival preservation component element will most likely be found lacking. The NRPF does not offer grants to individuals unless the materials are housed within a non-profit structure.

These grants, totaling $50,000, are funded by the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board and reflects its keen interest in audio preservation and support of the NRPF.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, write to us at

Put in the subject line: Request for Grant Application Details

We will send by return email full information on how to apply.

With best regards,

Gerald Seligman

Executive Director

National Recording Preservation Foundation

RIAA – The Recording Industry Association of America – Supports NRPF With a Grant

September 11, 2018

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has made a generous contribution to the National Recording Preservation Foundation (NRPF), a project dedicated to helping to preserve recorded sound.

RIAA is pleased to contribute to the important work of the NRPF to protect and preserve sound recordings for future generations of music fans,” said David Hughes. RIAA’s Chief Technology Officer. “These recordings are etched in our history and have shaped our culture in profound ways. We are grateful to the NRPF and look forward to our continued partnership.”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation mission is to help find, preserve and make accessible the recorded history of the United States and help recuperate collections housed within the United States. These include international assets. Music, broadcast, speeches, spoken word – saved for all time. It does this by offering grants to not-for-profit archives in libraries, universities, foundations and elsewhere.

We are honored by the RIAA’s generous support for your preservation efforts,” said NRPF’s Executive Director, Gerald Seligman. “It goes such a long way in helping us support the preservation of our audio heritage. With contributions such as these the RIAA demonstrates how they look back to preserve even as the move ever-forward to develop new generations of recording artists.”

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.

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.”