Massive Archive of 78RPM Records Now Digitized & Put Online: Stream 78,000 Early 20th Century Records from Around the World

Last summer we checked in with the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project, a volunteer effort to digitize thousands of 78rpm records—the oldest mass-produced recording medium. Drawing on the expertise and vast holdings of preservation company George Blood, L.P., the ARChive of Contemporary Music, and over 20 more institutions from around the world, the project aims to save the recorded sounds of the past, and not only those that have come down to us through the efforts of highly selective curators. What we think of as the sound of the early 20th century—the blues, jazz, country, classical, ragtime, gospel, bluegrass, etc.—only represents a popular sample.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle wants to widen our sonic appreciation of the period, and include everything, “Midwest, different countries, different social classes, different immigrant communities and their loves and fears.”




This massive archive will eventually number in the millions, up to 3 million recordings, to be exact, and continues apace at the rate of about 5,000 new uploads per month.

Last August, the recordings in the archive numbered over 25,000. Now, the Great 78 Project contains more than 78,000 and counting digital transfers of fragile 78rpm records—everything from Prokofiev to the Carter Family (further up) to Mississippi John Hurt from 1928 (above) to international folk dances to field recordings of animal sounds.

The collected works of Al Jolson, spanning the years 1911 to 1926, appear (above), as does a fascinating collection from Argentina, brought to the U.S. by Tina Argumedo, who began collecting 78s in the 30s and continued to do so for another 20 years before moving to the States. Her digitized collection of almost 700 records “comprises primarily tango music, with boleros, sambas, mambo, and other dance music,” like the Argentine swing of Dajos Bela y su Orquestra from 1932 below.

As we noted in our previous post, the utmost care has gone into preserving the original sound of these records, with a variety of digital transfers made with different vintage styluses to represent the differences in playback systems. The process also preserves all the original records’ crackle and hiss—sometimes the music seems to swim below the surface noise, which only enhances the effect of hearing, transported through time, music from 80, 90, and 100 years ago and more.

Enter the 78 archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

New Gabriel García Márquez Digital Archive Features More Than 27,000 Digitized Letters, Manuscript Pages, Photos & More

Unidentified photographer. Gabriel García Márquez in Aracataca, March 1966.
Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

When Gabriel García Márquez died in 2014, it was said that only the Bible had sold more books in Spanish than the Colombian writer’s work: Love in the Time of Cholera, The Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The General in His Labyrinth… and yes, of course, One Hundred Years of Solitude, the 1967 novel William Kennedy described in a New York Times review as “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”

García Márquez began to hate such elevated praise. It raised expectations he felt he couldn’t fulfill after the enormous success of that incredibly brilliant, seemingly sui generis second novel. Everyone in South America read the book. To avoid the crowds, the author moved to Spain (where Mario Vargas Llosa wrote a doctoral dissertation on him). He needn’t have worried.




Everything he wrote afterward met with near-universal acclaim—bringing earlier work like No One Writes to the Colonel, Leaf Storm, short story collections like A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, and decades of journalism and non-fiction writing—to a much wider readership than he’d ever had before.

Gabriel García Márquez's revised typescript of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, 1980.
Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

After Gregory Rabassa’s 1970 translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude, waves of “magical realist” and Latin American literature from the 50s and 60s swept through the English-speaking world, much of it in translation for the first time. García Márquez declared the English version of his novel better than the original, and affectionately called Rabassa, “the best Latin American writer in the English language.” Upwards of 50 million people worldwide now know the story of the Buendía family. “Published in 44 languages,” The Atlantic notes, “it remains the most translated literary work in Spanish after Don Quixote, and a survey among international writers ranks it as the novel that has most shaped world literature over the past three decades.”

The story of the book’s composition is even more fascinating. In the Democracy Now tribute video below, you can hear García Márquez himself tell it. And at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, we can see artifacts like the photograph of the author at the top, in his hometown of Aracataca, Colombia in March of 1966, during the composition of One Hundred Years of Solitude. We can see scanned images of typescript like the page above from Chronicle of a Death Foretold.


In all, the archive “includes manuscript drafts of published and unpublished works, research material, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, clippings, notebooks, screenplays, printed material, ephemera, and an audio recording of García Márquez's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982… approximately 27,500 items from García Márquez's papers.” These documents and photos, like that further down of young journalist García Márquez with Emma Castro and, just below, of the seasoned famous novelist, with her brother, tell the story of a writer who lived his life steeped in the politics and history of Latin America, and who translated those stories faithfully for the rest of the world.

Unidentified photographer. Gabriel García Márquez with Fidel Castro, undated.
Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Enter, search, and explore the archive here. This amazing resource opens up to the general public a wealth of material previously only available to scholars and librarians. The project features “text-searchable English- and Spanish-language materials, took 18 months and involved the efforts of librarians, archivists, students, technology staff members and conservators.” Perhaps only coincidentally, 18 months is the time it took García Márquez to write One Hundred Years of Solitude, barricaded in his office while he ran out of money, pulled forward by some irresistible force. “I did not stop writing for a single day for 18 straight months, until I finished the book,” he tells us. As always, we believe him.

Unidentified photographer. Gabriel García Márquez with Emma Castro, 1957.
Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

2,000+ Impressionist, Post-impressionist & Early Modern Paintings Now Free Online, Thanks to the Barnes Foundation

Georges Seurat, Henri Rousseau, Giorgio de Chirico, Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh — all of us associate these names with great innovations in painting, but how many of us have had the opportunity to look long and close enough at their work to understand those innovations? To feel them, in other words, rather than just to know about them? The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has just recently made it possible for us to contemplate thousands of works of art including those of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern masters, zoomed in up close and at any length we like, by digitizing their collection and making it free online.

"Thanks to Open Access," writes Artnet's Sarah Cascone, "2,081 of the Barnes’s 4,021 objects have been published online. Of those, there are high-resolution images of 1,429 works available for download in the public domain.




It’s a big step for a museum that as recently as 1991 hadn’t published any color imagery of its holdings," due in part to the preferences of founder and "eccentric art collector Alfred C. Barnes (1872–1951), who drew up strict rules for how the museum would be run." For instance, it seems that Barnes, who disapproved of the way the early color photography reproduced paintings, felt he had no choice but to ban it in his museum entirely.

"As we were rethinking the presentation of our collection online we were considering the sensitivity Barnes had around color reproduction," writes Deputy Director of Audience Engagement and Chief Experience Officer Shelley Bernstein, "but we also had to think about the needs of today’s students, researchers, and scholars. It goes without saying that the work of other institutions  —  the open access initiative at the Met, especially  —  helped make these decisions much easier." And though the Barnes first started putting its works of art on the internet five years ago, "that last iteration of the collection online didn’t foreground the ability for users to download or share images easily."

Now, the Barnes' online collection features nearly 1,500 items free to download so far. But currently downloadable or not, everything uploaded so far appears in an easily searchable, browsable, and, most of all, viewable form. Here we have van Gogh's The Brothel, Paul Cézanne's The Bathers, and Rousseau's Outskirts of Paris, four paintings that, in many ways, look as stylistically fresh as they did when first revealed in the late 19th century to the mid-20th. The fact that 21st-century technology has made it so much easier for all humanity to see that would, one likes to think, have pleased even old Mr. Barnes himself.

Enter the Barnes online collection here.

via Artnet News

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

MIT Is Digitizing a Huge Archive of Noam Chomsky’s Lectures, Papers and Other Documents & Will Put Them Online

If you’re a linguist, you’ve read Noam Chomsky—no way of getting around that. There may be reasons to disagree with Chomsky’s linguistic theories but—as Newton’s theories do in physics—his breakthroughs represent a paradigmatic shift in the study of language, an implicit or explicit reference point for nearly every linguistic analysis in the past few decades.

If you’re on the political left, you’ve read Chomsky, or you should. Even if there are significant reasons to disagree with whatever controversial stance he’s taken over the years, few political theorists have approached their subject with the degree of doggedness, intellectual integrity, and erudition as he has. Chomsky began his second career as a political activist and philosopher in the late sixties, speaking out in opposition to the Vietnam war. Since then, he’s written majorly influential works on mass media propaganda, Cold War politics and interventionist war, economic imperialism, anarchism, etc.

Now an emeritus professor from MIT, where he began teaching in 1955, and a laureate professor at the University of Arizona, Chomsky has reached that stage in every public intellectual’s career when archivists and curators begin consolidating a documentary legacy. Librarians at MIT started doing so a few years ago when, in 2012, the MIT Libraries Institute Archives received over 260 boxes of Chomsky’s personal papers. You can hear the man himself discuss the archive’s importance in the short interview at the top. And at the MIT Library site unBox Chomsky Archive, you’ll find slideshow previews of its contents.

Those contents include the 1953 paper “Systems of Syntactic Analysis,” which “appears to be Chomsky’s first foray in print of what would become transformational generative grammar.” Also archived are notes from a 1984 talk on “Manufacturing Consent” given at Rutgers University, outlining the ideas Chomsky and Edward S. Herman would fully explore in the 1988 book of the same name on “the political economy of the mass media.” And in the category of “activism,” we find materials like the newsletter below, published by an anti-war organization Chomsky co-founded in the 60s called RESIST.

MIT hopes to “digitize the hundreds of thousands of pieces” in the collection, “to make it accessible to the public.” Such a massive undertaking exceeds the library’s budget, so they have asked for financial support. At unBoxing the Chomsky Archive, you can make a donation, or just peruse the slideshow previews and consider the legacy of one of the U.S.’s most formidable living scientific and political thinkers.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

25 Million Images From 14 Art Institutions to Be Digitized & Put Online In One Huge Scholarly Archive

Digital art archives, says Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute, are “Sleeping Beauties, and they are waiting to be discovered and kissed.” It’s an odd metaphor, especially since the archive to which Gaehtgens refers currently contains photographic treasures like that of Medieval Christian art from the Netherlands Institute for Art History. But soon, Pharos, the “International Consortium of Photo Archives,” will host 25 million images, Ted Loos reports at The New York Times, “17 million of them artworks and the rest supplemental material." The archive aims to have 7 million online by 2020.

Pharos is the joint effort of 14 different institutions, including the Getty and the Frick, the National Gallery of Art, the Yale Center for British Art, Rome’s Bibliotheca Hertziana, the Courtauld Institute, and more. Eventually “users will be able to search the restoration history of the works, including different states of the same piece over time… past ownership; and even background on related works that have been lost or destroyed.” As Artnet puts it, “art history just got a lot more accessible.”

Once the primary domain of well-appointed professors with institutional connections and the budget to fly around the world, the discipline can soon be pursued by anyone with an internet connection, though there is, of course, no virtual substitute yet for engaging with art in three-dimensions. Claire Voon explains at Hyperallergic, “Pharos’s database is primarily aimed at scholars—although it is freely available for all to use—and is dedicated to uploading a work’s attribution and provenance as well as conservation, exhibition, and bibliographic histories.” All of the information, in other words, required for serious research.

Currently featuring almost 100,000 images and over 60,000 separate artworks, Pharos contains classical and Byzantine art and mosaics from the Frick; early Christian art from the National Gallery; many photographs of Roman pottery, sculpture, and statuary from the Bibliotheca Hertziana, and much more. The Frick comprises the bulk of the collection, and the museum is Pharos’s primary partner and “home to the very first photoarchive in the United States, thanks to the initiative of its founder’s daughter.” (Most of the images currently in the Frick archive are in black and white.)

While the current institutions are all based in North America and Europe, the “database will eventually expand,” writes Voon, “to include records from more photoarchives around the world.” Scholars and art lovers worldwide may not necessarily think of these treasures as kissable “sleeping beauties,” but their plentiful appearance in such rich detail and easy accessibility may indeed seem like a fairy tale come true.

Enter the Pharos database here.

via Hyperallergic

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

New Digital Archive Puts Online 4,000 Historic Images of Rome: The Eternal City from the 16th to 20th Centuries

The poet Tibullus first described Rome as "The Eternal City" in the first century BC, and that evocative nickname has stuck over the thousands of years since. Or rather, he would have called it "Urbs Aeterna," which for Italian-speakers would have been "La Città Eterna," but regardless of which language you prefer it in, it throws down a daunting challenge before any historian of Rome. Each scholar has had to find their own way of approaching such a historically formidable place, and few have built up such a robust visual record as Rodolfo Lanciani, 4000 items from whose collection became available to view online this year, thanks to Stanford Libraries.

As an "archaeologist, professor of topography, and secretary of the Archaeological Commission," says the collection's about page, Lanciani, "was a pioneer in the systematic, modern study of the city of Rome."




Having lived from 1845 to 1929 with a long and fruitful career to match, he "collected a vast archive of his own notes and manuscripts, as well as works by others including rare prints and original drawings by artists and architects stretching back to the sixteenth century." After he died, his whole library found a buyer in the Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte (INASA), which made it available to researchers at the 15th-century Palazzo Venezia in Rome.

Enter a team of professors, archaeologists, and technologists from Stanford and elsewhere, who with a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and in partnership with Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the National Institute, began digitizing it all. Their efforts have so far yielded an exhibition of about 4,000 of Lanciani's drawings, prints, photographs and sketches of Rome from the 16th century to the 20th. Not only can you examine them in high-resolution in your browser as well as download them, you can also see the locations of what they depict pinpointed on the map of Rome. That feature might come in especially handy when next you pay a visit to The Eternal City, though for many of the features depicted in Lanciani's collection, you hardly need directions. Enter the digital collection here.

via Stanford News

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Boston Public Library Will Digitize & Put Online 200,000+ Vintage Records

It may be a great irony that our age of cultural destruction and—many would argue—decline also happens to be a golden age of preservation, thanks to the very new media and big data forces credited with dumbing things down. We spend ample time contemplating the losses; archival initiatives like The Great 78 Project, like so many others we regularly feature here, should give us reasons to celebrate.

In a post this past August, we outlined the goals and methods of the project. Centralized at the Internet Archive—that magnanimous citizens’ repository of digitized texts, recordings, films, etc.—the project contains several thousand carefully preserved 78rpm recordings, which document the distinctive sounds of the early 20th century from 1898 to the late-1950s.




Thanks to partners like preservation company George Blood, L.P. and the ARChive of Contemporary Music, we can hear many thousands of records from artists both famous and obscure in the original sound of the first mass-produced consumer audio format.

Just a few days ago, the Internet Archive announced that they would be joined in the endeavor by the Boston Public Library, who, writes Wendy Hanamura, “will digitize, preserve” and make available to the public “hundreds of thousands of audio recordings in a variety of historical formats,” including not only 78s, but also LP’s and Thomas Edison’s first recording medium, the wax cylinder. “These recordings have never been circulated and were in storage for several decades, uncatalogued and inaccessible to the public.”

The process, notes WBUR, “could take a few years,” given the sizable bulk of the collection and the meticulous methods of the Internet Archive’s technicians, who labor to preserve the condition of the often fragile materials, and to produce a number of different versions, “from remastered to raw.” The object, says Boston Public Library president David Leonard, is to “produce recordings in a way that’s interesting to the casual listener as well as to the hard-core music listener in the research business.”

Thus far, only two recordings from BPL’s extensive collections have become available—a 1938 recording called “Please Pass the Biscuits, Pappy (I Like Mountain Music)” by W. Lee O’Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys and Edvard Grieg’s only piano concerto, recorded by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra in 1947. Even in this tiny sampling, you can see the range of material the archive will feature, consistent with the tremendous variety the Great 78 Project already contains.

While we can count it as a great gain to have free and open access to this historic vault of recorded audio, it is also the case that digital archiving has become an urgent bulwark against total loss. Current recording formats instantly spawn innumerable copies of themselves. The physical media of the past existed in finite numbers and are subject to total erasure with time. “The simple fact of the matter,” archivist George Blood tells the BPL, “is most audiovisual recordings will be lost. These 78s are disappearing left and right. It is important that we do a good job preserving what we can get to, because there won’t be a second chance.”

via WBUR

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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