UCLA

Hearing the Past

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By Cameron Vernali '20

Published Jan 29, 2019 12:00 PM


The re-opening of the Ethnomusicology Archive offers new ways for visitors to listen.


Archivists Maureen Russell and Aaron Bittel in the new high-density shelving room in the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive. Photo by Brian Runt, UCLA.

The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is much more than its live musical entertainment. Its collection of archival musical culture is also a landmark feature. The school recently highlighted this cultural hub when the Ethnomusicology Archive reopened in an expanded space on campus.

“The newly renovated archive will make it easier for our students, faculty and the general public to access and enjoy the wonderful collections,” says Dean Judith Smith. “It also opens the door for the acquisition of more one-of-a-kind collections that support the teaching and research needs of the school.”

To document world musical expressions, the Ethnomusicology archive holds more than 150,000 audio, video, print, and photographic items since 1961. The collection includes unique field recordings and rare commercial recordings. In addition to documenting widespread musical history, the archive is home to 60 years of audio and video recordings of the department's concerts and lectures by scholars and performers.

The renovated expansion includes an inviting new public space for greater access to the archive's collections; a high-density shelving area; and a ‘viewing room’ that enables groups of up to 14 people to view or listen to select collections together. The new archival storage space is especially useful because it houses much of the collection with maximum capacity.

On January 11, 2019, the archive celebrated its re-opening with “Documenting the Sounds of Africa,” a daylong symposium and evening concert. Members of the UCLA West African and Afro-Cuban Ensembles performed traditional repertoires from Ghana.

“Our hope is to build a sense of community for the ethnomusicology students and faculty at UCLA by providing them a common space,” says archivist/librarian Maureen Russell, adjunct professor of ethnomusicology. “The archive now has the potential to become the heart of this academic community and a welcoming center for serious research.”

To read more on this story, please visit ucla.in/2sg38fK .

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