Record collectors, academics find common purpose

“I’d spent most of the day in the archives of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a patient young archivist named Aaron Smithers had played me a stack of Blind Blake 78s….

“Despite most [78 rpm record] collectors’ contentious relationship with academia and with archives in particular, many still posthumously bequeath their records to institutions rather than burdening their already strained estates with thousands of pounds of shellac. The Southern Folklife Collection’s curator, Steve Weiss, estimated that nearly 95 percent of the SFC’s holdings were sourced from private collections….

“Interestingly, Weiss was grateful for collectors’ contributions not just to the archive he oversees but also to the broader notion of folklore as a viable academic pursuit — a field that didn’t really blossom until the 1950s and ’60s…. ‘They really have preserved the music, and they’ve promoted the music,’  he said. While there was sometimes tension between collectors and academics, there was symbiosis, too.”

— From Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records” by Amanda Petrusich (2014)

 

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