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ARSCLIST  June 2007

ARSCLIST June 2007

Subject:

Re: Digitization of Paper Archives

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 15 Jun 2007 09:39:46 -0700

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Matthew Snyder <[log in to unmask]> wrote:    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.
   
  UT doesn't cry poverty over preservation. While the Ransom center has a fine, well trained and highly respected staff, it is not big enough to handle all of their needs. The other major collections on campus do not have, in my opinion, adequate staff. In many instances they just do not address the preservation needs.
  
***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.
   
  I believe it stems from the traditions that marked the inception of the Ransom Center,points I outlined in a previous post. Other libraries on campus are making some effort to scan, even if I am not particularly impressed with the quality of the work.
   
  As for the posture of the Ransom Center, I would certainly side with you. If there is substantive research value to a collection, and there are no copyrights to be considered or limitations imposed by deposit agreements, online access should be considered. But again, if the Regents do not agree with the concept...
   
  While I do not believe it is an excuse, consider that the state of Texas is ranked 37th in per capita income. I often see many of the initiatives similar to the small towns in the West that built opera houses. You can draw your own conclusions as to what I am suggesting.
   
  As with the changes in the photocopy policies, I believe that if there is a consensus within the research community that certain of the Ransom Center holdings be made available online, it should be voiced. 

***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.
   
  I agree with you. I would also go so far to say that I find the monies paid for some of the "name" collections are inappropriate, but alas, that is up to the marketplace to decide.
   
  I share similar frustrations over the copyrights as I see that they present similar fiscal considerations. 
   
  I find it amazing that institutions do pay so much for anything of that nature. When I started up the recordings archive here I was offered a very small sum of money for acquisitions. I replied, "I can't do much with that." I then added, "don't give me anything, that way, if I bring anything of consequence in, I will be a success."  I should also add that I turned down some gifts which came with limitations to access. Those with any limitation to access had to have at least a contact or methodology to provide access. For example, the Houston Symphony offered a channel for permission through the musician's committee. Amazingly, they honored several requests.

***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 point I was trying to make is that often times there is a direct link between what might have press value and what is seen as being historically significant. It takes a great deal of knowledge and a bit of intuition to make good decisions. 

***lesser-knowns (Mary Howe, Louis Gruenberg, Buster Davis, Ross Lee Finney, Miriam Gideon, Ellis Kohs). 
   
  For me, these still fall under the category of well-known. Each of names you mention have had performances in major venues. Of course, these days, for most folks, Ned Rorem can be an unknown.
   
  ***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.

  It would seem that you have a well-trained and informed person in charge of your acquisitions. Many libraries rely on those who have had their major training in library school. No, I am not putting down library school, but I am suggesting that the sort of training you mention is not often found in those who run music collections. When I was on the faculty of the University of Arizona, we had a music library, and a music librarian and an assistant music librarian. Now the collection is housed in the main library with no trained subject specialist. 
   
  I assume you read the MLA list? I have had posts forwarded to me which demonstrate a growing lack of value being placed on subject specialists. 
   
  Look at the job ads and qualifications listing for openings in music libraries and archives. The qualifications list for curator positions do not always list subject expertise as being required. 
   
  I am not encouraged. A friend of mine has his recordings collection on deposit at Columbia University, just up the road from you. They want to give some of it back to him as they say they are running out of space! It is probably one of the finest collections of broadcasts of contemporary music. He also has one of the finest collections of commercial recordings of same. 
   
  I wonder, what is the thinking and what are the priorities, and, what is the situation at other institutions. I believe Stanford is no longer accepting donations of recordings. 
   
  So, let me know how to contact your boss. I will see if there is interest in John Pozdro and Forrest Goodenough.
   
  Karl

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