We connect collection stewards, funders, and policymakers
to up-to-date, useful, and reliable information about
the state of recorded sound preservation, care and handling for
long-term stewardship of analog audio media, and planning for the digitization of audio materials.
As articulated by the National Recording Preservation Plan, “The Foundation should provide guidance to grant-making organizations on technical issues, as well as on legal issues related to the provision of public access to sound recordings preserved by grant funds” (73).
The following resources represent useful items that we have encountered through our work, or that have served as beneficial to our grantees. This list was originally compiled by Gerald Seligman in 2016, but we make frequent updates. If you would like to be included in this list, we are happy to include any resources that are openly available and rights-honoring. Please use our contact link.
Collections and Archives
For the most comprehensive, and udpated listing of sound collections and archives around the U.S., please consult the Sound Collections Database, created in collaboration with the National Recording Preservation Board, Radio Preservation Task Force, and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Audio-Visual Collection Although politics dominates the 10,000 audiotapes in the collection, more than 1,000 are oral history interviews of Illinoisans who fought in World War II and those who remained on the Illinois homefront. All recorded materials of the ALPL’s Oral History program are housed in the Audio-Visual Collection.
- Alabama Center for Traditional Culture The Alabama Folklife Recording Series produced on the Alabama Traditions label includes documentary recordings that have been produced with public support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. All of these recordings are available from the Alabama Folklife Association.
- Alan Lomax Archive (Association for Cultural Equity). The Sound Recordings catalog comprises over 17,400 digital audio files, beginning with Lomax’s first recordings onto (newly invented) tape in 1946 and tracing his career into the 1990s. In addition to a wide spectrum of musical performances from around the world, it includes stories, jokes, sermons, personal narratives, interviews conducted by Lomax and his associates, and unique ambient artifacts captured in transit from radio broadcasts.
- American Comedy Archives (Emerson College). The American Comedy Archives includes manuscripts, photographs, video and film materials, and an oral history collection. It is the first collection of its kind at an academic institution devoted to exploring the nature of comedy as an American art form.
- American Folklife Center (The Library of Congress). The American Folklife Center Archive, established in the Library of Congress Music Division in 1928, is now one of the largest archives of ethnographic materials from the United States and around the world.
- Archives of African American Music and Culture (Indiana University). Established in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. Their collections highlight popular, religious, and classical music, with genres ranging from blues and gospel to R&B and contemporary hip hop. The AAAMC also houses extensive materials related to the documentation of black radio.
- Belfer Audio Archive (Syracuse University). Founded in 1963 with a collection of 150,000 recordings held off-campus under the leadership of Walter L. Welch, the Libraries' archive of sound recordings and related items has grown to over 340,000 items housed in a specially designed, climate-controlled facility on campus. Currently it is the fourth largest sound archive in the country and includes formats from the earliest experimental recordings on tinfoil to modern digital media. The collection of 22,000 cylinder records is the largest held by any private institution in North America, and one of the largest in the world.
- Bensman's Radio Archives (University of Memphis)
- Berea College Sound Archives Berea's non-commercial audio and video collections document Appalachian history and culture, and the history of Berea College. They are especially strong in the areas of traditional music, religious expression, spoken lore, radio programs, oral history, and college events and personalities.
- Bowling Green State University Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives The Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives (ML/SRA) support curriculum in Music, Popular Culture, and American Culture Studies. With almost a million recordings, the Sound Recordings Archives represents the largest collection of popular music recordings in an academic library in North America.
- Chicago Jazz Archive (University of Chicago) The Chicago Jazz Archive was founded in 1976 to preserve materials on the birth and early growth of Chicago jazz. Over time, and benefiting from a relationship with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the collections have grown to span more than eight decades of Chicago and general jazz history. The collections include recordings, publications, photographs, articles, posters, programs, ticket stubs, and other ephemera of musicians, clubs, record companies, and jazz organizations.
- Classical Persian Music Archives (Foundation for Iranian Studies)
- Creative Audio Archive The Creative Audio Archive (CAA) is a Chicago based center for the preservation and investigation of innovative and experimental sonic arts and music. CAA is an initiative of the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS), formed in response to growing concerns over the general state of historical preservation of non-mainstream audio, in particular, recordings, print, and visual ephemera related to avant-garde and exploratory sound and music of the last five decades.
- Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive was established in 2002 as a repository of sound recordings for researchers and students. It offers online access to Jewish recordings that are not commercially available and related, searchable information that can aid in the study of Jewish music and culture, Jewish society, and the history of Jewish sound recordings.
- Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archives The primary mission of the Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries is to collect, preserve, and digitize Judaica sound recordings; to create educational programs highlighting the contents of this rich cultural legacy; and to encourage the use of this unique scholarly resource by students, scholars and the general public.
- Hogan Jazz Archive (Tulane University) The Hogan Jazz Archive is the leading research center for the study of New Orleans jazz and related musical genres, including New Orleans ragtime, gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, and Creole songs. Among its holdings are 2,000 reels of oral history interviews with musicians, family members, and observers that document the stories surrounding the emergence of jazz in New Orleans from the late 19th century forward.
- Institute of Jazz Studies (Rutgers University) The Institute of Jazz Studies is the world's foremost jazz archive and research facility. It was founded in 1952 by Marshall Stearns (1908-1966), a pioneer jazz scholar. In 1966, Rutgers was chosen as the collection's permanent academic home.
- International Jazz Collections (University of Idaho) The International Jazz Collections was formally established at the University of Idaho in 2000, featuring papers and photographs of the legendary Lionel Hampton. The IJC merged into the Special Collections & Archives of the UI Library in 2007, and is now the preeminent jazz archive in the Pacific Northwest.
- International Piano Archives at Maryland (University of Maryland) The International Piano Archives was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1965 by Albert Petrak and Gregor Benko, who soon moved the organization to New York City where they added William Santaella to the staff. In New York, the Archives quickly grew into an audio treasure and earned acclaim for its reissues of historic piano performances. In 1977, the International Piano Archives was given to the University of Maryland, College Park, where it serves students and faculty, as well as an international community of musicians, researchers and friends of piano performance.
- Jazz Archive at Duke University The Jazz Archive at Duke University acquires, preserves, and makes available unique materials that document jazz's historical and ongoing significance.
- Macaulay Library (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) The Macaulay Library is the world's largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings. Their mission is to collect and preserve recordings of each species' behavior and natural history, to facilitate the ability of others to collect and preserve such recordings, and to actively promote the use of these recordings for diverse purposes spanning scientific research, education, conservation, and the arts.
- Marr Sound Archives (University of Missouri – Kansas City) The Marr Sound Archives is home to over 300,000 sound recordings of jazz, blues, country and popular music; historic voices and authors reading their own works; vintage radio programs; classical and opera. They comprise a wide range of historic formats including LPs, 78s, 45s, cylinders, transcription discs, instantaneous-cut discs and open-reel tapes.
- Milliken Special Collections and Abilene Christian University Archives
- Orson Welles Broadcasts (Lilly Library at Indiana University) Supported by a National Recording Preservation Foundation grant in April 2016.
- Sousa Archives and Center for American Music (University of Illinois) The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music (SACAM) acquires and preserves significant archival records and historical artifacts in multiple media formats that document America’s local and national music history and its diverse cultures.
- Southern Folklife Collection (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) Archival resource dedicated to collecting, preserving and disseminating vernacular music, art, and culture related to the American South. Supported by a National Recording Preservation Foundation grant in 2016.
- Stanford University Archive of Recorded Sound The Archive of Recorded Sound's collection contains over 400,000 items that span sound recording history – from its beginnings to the present day. Nearly all formats ever developed to record sound are represented: wax cylinders; shellac, acetate, aluminum, and vinyl discs; magnetic wire and tape recordings; compact discs. Collections are particularly strong in the areas of jazz and opera.
- UC Santa Barbara Library Digitized Collections This site features thousands of photographs, documents, audio and video materials from the library's Special Collections department. Highlights include photographs of historic Santa Barbara, photos of film composer Bernard Herrmann, audio recordings from the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, and posters by artist from San Francisco's Kearney Street Workshop.
- University of Kentucky Audio-Visual Archives The UK Audio-Visual Archives contains one of the largest university-based collections of archival film, video and audio recordings in the United States.
- Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings The purpose of the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings (HSR) is to collect, preserve, and make available for study historical recordings of performers important in the fields of Western classical music, jazz, American musical theater, drama, literature, and history (including oratory).
- Association for Recorded Sound Collections ARSC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings, in all genres of music and speech, in all formats, and from all periods. ARSC is unique in bringing together private individuals and institutional professionals—everyone with a serious interest in recorded sound.
- Audio Engineering Society The AES is the only professional society devoted exclusively to audio technology. Founded in the United States in 1948, the AES has grown to become an international organization that unites audio engineers, creative artists, scientists and students worldwide by promoting advances in audio and disseminating new knowledge and research.
- Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations CCAAA provides a shared platform for nine membership-based organizations wishing to cooperate on influencing the development of public policy on issues of importance to professional audiovisual archivists
- International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives IASA was established in 1969 in Amsterdam to function as a medium for international co-operation between archives that preserve recorded sound and audiovisual documents. It has members from 70 countries representing a broad palette of audiovisual archives.
- National Association of Broadcasters
- Society of American Archivists Audio and Moving Image Section The roundtable includes members of the Society of American Archivists who are interested in the preservation and management of audio and audiovisual collections. The roundtable serves as a forum for discussing archival issues related to the creation, management, preservation, and use of audio and audiovisual resources in archives and other cultural heritage repositories.
- Vintage Audio Format Identification A guide from the Library of Congress with visual examples to aid in identifying a range of legacy audio formats.
- Audio Preservation (Conservation OnLine) A list of resources compiled by the PARS Recording and Photographic Media Committee of the American Library Association.
- Sound Directions Project (Indiana University) This project presents the results of research and development carried out by the Sound Directions project with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The initial Sound Directions project was a joint technical archiving project between the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music and the Archive of World Music at Harvard University.
- Essential Resources for Audio Preservation (Association for Recorded Sound Collections Technical Committee)
- Preserving Sound Recordings (American Folklife Center)
- The National Archives Audio Preservation Lab
- National Recording Preservation Board The NRPB comprises representatives from professional organizations of composers, musicians, musicologists, librarians, archivists and the recording industry.
- National Recording Preservation Plan A blueprint for saving America’s recorded sound heritage for future generations, the congressionally-mandated plan spells out 32 short- and long-term recommendations involving both the public and private sectors and covering infrastructure, preservation, access, education and policy strategies.
Streams and Audio Projects
- Inside the National Recording Registry. Each year, the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress chooses 25 recordings to be preserved for all time. Inside the National Recording Registry, produced by Ben Manilla Productions, highlights some of those selections.
- Edison Sound Recordings (National Park Service) A selection of Edison recordings from the Thomas Edison National Historical Park archive in MP3 format, arranged by genre. The content of the recordings is mostly music, covering many different genres popular in the United States during Edison's era.
- Online Audio Collections (Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center) The Library of Congress provides access to a portion of its audio collections through the Recorded Sound Reference Center's web page.
- Public Radio Exchange (PRX) PRX is is an award-winning public media company, harnessing innovative technology to bring compelling content to millions of people.
- radiOM.org (Other Minds) Other Minds, Inc., is dedicated to the encouragement and propagation of contemporary music in all its forms through concerts, workshops and conferences that bring together artists and audiences of diverse traditions, generations and cultural backgrounds. The material featured on radiOM.org is gleaned from thousands of hours of audio recordings from KPFA-FM radio in Berkeley (1949-1995), and concerts and talks produced by Other Minds in San Francisco (1993-2005).
- Smithsonian Folkways Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.
- The 78 Project A documentary and recording journey inspired by Alan Lomax that brings the spirit of his work into the present as breakthrough musicians are paired with the songs and the fascinating recording technology of the past. With just one microphone, one authentic 1930s Presto direct-to-acetate disk recorder, and one blank lacquer disc, musicians are given one take to cut a record anywhere they choose.
- The National Jukebox A project of the Library of Congress, the National Jukebox makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. When it launched, the Jukebox included more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925.
- The Poetry Archive With the aim of making poetry accessible, relevant and enjoyable to a wide audience, the Poetry Archive preserves and restores historical recordings of English-language poets reading their work, and commissions new recordings of contemporary poets. Recordings in this digital collection can be browsed by author, title, theme, form and region.
- Voices of the Holocaust (Illinois Institute of Technology) In 1946, Dr. David P. Boder, a psychology professor from Chicago's Illinois Institute of Technology, traveled to Europe to record the stories of Holocaust survivors in their own words. Over a period of three months, he visited refugee camps in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, carrying a wire recorder and 200 spools of steel wire, upon which he was able to record over 90 hours of first-hand testimony. These recordings represent the earliest known oral histories of the Holocaust, which are available through this online archive.