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ARSCLIST  June 2007

ARSCLIST June 2007

Subject:

Re: Digitization of Paper Archives

From:

Matthew Snyder <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 15 Jun 2007 10:53:17 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (115 lines)

Karl Miller wrote:

> Do you have enough staff to address all of your preservation needs?

No, but at least NYPL doesn't cry poverty over preservation at the exact 
same time that it's spending huge amounts to acquire collections. In fact, 
as a general rule no money (to my knowledge) is spent to acquire archival 
materials. Donations only. There may (probably are, but that's only my 
supposition)  be cases where a donor supplies money for preservation, but 
I'm sure that's a rare exception, if it happens at all.

> How much paper is in need of scanning? If you are suggesting that we, as 
a society, are spending enough to preserve our history, I would  disagree 
with you. 

I don't argue that at all (and I don't regard scanning as a preservation 
measure anyway. Access, yes.). But I would argue that if UT can afford to 
scan at least some significant items but doesn't either because they're 
luddites or because they're bureaucratically-challenged, that's just 
inexcusable.

> You also raise the significant point about the marketplace. I find it 
very sad that the spending has given >writers, and their heirs, a sense 
that they can make >so much money from their papers. It can, and to some 
extent, >has become similar to the art market. On the other hand, should 
not an author be able to make >money on having >developed a reputation?

Yes, but not everybody is worth the amount paid for, say, Joyce or Mailer 
manuscripts. It's not so much that money is paid for materials, it's the 
amounts involved. Collectors can pay what they want, but I feel that 
institutions should not contribute to the problem, even though I know why 
they do: they want the stuff, and it's very hard to argue that they 
shouldn't get it if they have the resources.

> On the subject of acquisitions, who should make the decisions about what 
to acquire and how much money should be >spent. What criteria should be 
used? >Who would be qualified to make those decisions? What sort of 
background should >they have to make those decisions? Where do they get 
their training? >Who should decide the fund raising priorities >for 
acquisitions? How much lattitude should that individual have in making 
those decisions?
>  I would also wonder about your library. What are the criteria for your 
collection to accept the archives of a >composer? Would you accept the 
collection of a >composer like John Pozdro? John wonders what will become 
of his >manuscripts. How about the manuscripts of the late Forrest 
Goodenough? They are >sitting in a room in my home. I >have my own music 
compositions, works for orchestra, and ensembles...would your library be 
interested? Then there >are >those 8 inch floppies I have of my work on 
the Fairlight. Would you be able to reformat those? Would you be 
>interested in having them? Or, would you rather >have my correspondence 
with composers like Piston, Schuman, >Mathias? Rough questions I would 
think...

You're talking about the appraisal process, which is what archivists go 
through when the opportunity to get hold of a collection presents itself. 
Decisions like these, some even more complex than ones you outline, are 
made every single day. The decision is helped along in part by the mission 
statement of the archives. In the case of NYPL Music Division (for whom I 
process collections, but I am not involved at all with acquisitions), the 
focus of the collection is American music. Beyond that, a myriad of 
factors come in: what can the institution afford to take in in terms of 
space, processing resources, preservation needs, etc? How significant is 
the subject relative to American music and to the other collections in 
NYPL? Significance, of course, can be highly subjective, but that's simply 
the way it is; everybody has biases, but a professional tries to stay as 
objective as possible.

The chief of Music Div is an archivist and a musician and composer himself 
of catholic tastes who is widely knowledgeable about American music, and 
has people working for him who also have vast knowledge in different 
areas. Nobody is perfect, but with decades of experience they seem to be 
able sniff out wheat from chaff. They've taken in both very famous and 
obviously significant collections (John Cage, Vincent Persichetti, Henry 
Cowell, Norman Dello Joio, John Becker, Teo Macero, Meredith Monk, Jerry 
Bock, Benny Goodman), and other lesser-knowns (Mary Howe, Louis Gruenberg, 
Buster Davis, Ross Lee Finney, Miriam Gideon, Ellis Kohs). John Pozdro 
should definitely contact Music Div. if he's interested in donating his 
papers: he's an American composer, so why not? They'll definitely give him 
a hearing, though I can't guarantee anything, of course. Same for the 
family of Forrest Goodenough. Half the battle is getting these people to 
actually CONTACT an institution; the curators are not mindreaders: they 
keep their ears to the ground, but if they don't know about the 
availability a collection or have never heard of the person, they simply 
won't know to ask. That doesn't mean they won't give it a fair hearing, 
though. I recently hooked up the family of a recently-deceased musician 
with Music Div., and even though they hadn't heard of the musician before, 
they were very interested once I explained who the person was and what his 
musical importance was. 

Yes, these are all important, sometimes even rough questions, but they're 
not in any way unfamiliar or strange to an archivist with knowledge, 
proper subject background and experience.

Matt Snyder
Music Archivist
Wilson Processing Project
The New York Public Library



----- Message from Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]> on Thu, 14 Jun 
2007 09:24:55 -0700 -----
Subject:
Re: Digitization of Paper Archives


 
 

 
 
 
 
  Karl

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