25,000+ 78RPM Records Now Professionally Digitized & Streaming Online: A Treasure Trove of Early 20th Century Music

Every recording medium works as a metonym for its era: the term “LP” conjures up associations with a broad musical period of classic rock ‘n’ roll, soul, doo-wop, R&B, funk, jazz, disco etc.; we talk of the “CD era,” dominated by dance music and hip-hop; the 45 makes us think of jukeboxes, diners, and sock-hops; and the cassette, well... at least one subgenre of music, what John Peel called “shambling,” jangly, lo-fi pop, came to be known by the name “C86,” the title of an NME compilation, short for “Cassette, 1986.” (Readers of the magazine had to clip coupons and send money by postal mail to receive a copy of the tape.)

Soon, however, fewer and fewer people will remember the age of the 78rpm record, the preferred vehicle for the music of the early 20th century. From classical and opera to blues, bluegrass, swing, ragtime, gospel, Hawaiian, and holiday novelties the 78 epitomizes the sounds of its heyday as much as any of the media mentioned above.




While cassettes recently made a nostalgic comeback, and turntables are found in every big box store, we’re generally not equipped to play back 78s. These are brittle records made from shellac, a resin secreted by beetles. They were often played on appliances that doubled as quality parlor furniture.

Thanks now to the Internet Archive, that stalwart of digital cataloguing and curation, we can play twenty five thousand 78s and immerse ourselves in the early 20th century, whether for research purposes or pure enjoyment. Previous efforts at preservation have “restored or remastered… commercially viable recordings” on LP or CD, writes The Great 78 Project, the archive’s volunteer program to digitize musical history. The current effort seeks to go beyond popularity and collect everything, from the rarest and strangest to the already historic. “I want to know what the early 20th century sounded like,” writes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, “Midwest, different countries, different social classes, different immigrant communities and their loves and fears.”

You can hear several selections here, and thousands more at this archive of 78s uploaded by audio-visual preservation company, George Blood, L.P. Other 78rpm archives from volunteer collectors and the ARChive of Contemporary Music are being digitized and uploaded as well. You’ll note the recordings are often submerged in crackle and hiss, and generally lack bass and treble (most playback systems of the time could not reproduce the lower and higher ends of the audible spectrum). “We have preserved the often very prominent surface noise and imperfections,” the Archive writes, “and included files generated by different sizes and shapes of stylus to facilitate different kinds of analysis.” Different playback systems could produce markedly different sounds, and the recordings were not always strictly 78rpm.

These conditions of the transfer ensure that we roughly hear what the first audiences heard, though the records’ age and our penchant for 7 speaker audio systems introduce some new variables. None of these recordings were even made in stereo. The 78 period, notes Yale Library, lasted between 1898 and the late 1950s, when the 33 1/2 rpm long-playing record fully edged out the older model. For approximately fifty years, these records carried recorded music, sound, and speech into homes around the world. “What is this?” Kahle asks of this formidable digitization project. “A reference collection? A collector’s dream? A discovery radio station? The soundtrack of the early 20th century?” All of the above. To learn more about The Great 78 Project, including the technical details of the transfer and how you can carefully package up and mail in your own 78rpm records, visit their Preservation page.

h/t @Ferdinand77

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

Free: You Can Now Read Classic Books by MIT Press on Archive.org

FYI. At the end of May, Archive.org announced this on its blog:

For more than eighty years, MIT Press has been publishing acclaimed titles in science, technology, art and architecture.  Now, thanks to a new partnership between the Internet Archive and MIT Press, readers will be able to borrow these classics online for the first time. With generous support from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing, this partnership represents an important advance in providing free, long-term public access to knowledge.

“These books represent some of the finest scholarship ever produced, but right now they are very hard to find,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “Together with MIT Press, we will enable the patrons of every library that owns one of these books to borrow it online–one copy at a time.”

This joint initiative is a crucial early step in Internet Archive’s ambitious plans to digitize, preserve and provide public access to four million books, by partnering widely with university presses and other publishers, authors, and libraries....

We will be scanning an initial group of 1,500 MIT Press titles at Internet Archive’s Boston Public Library facility, including Cyril Stanley Smith’s 1980 book, From Art to Science: Seventy-Two Objects Illustrating the Nature of Discovery, and Frederick Law Olmsted and Theodora Kimball’s Forty Years of Landscape Architecture: Central Park, which was published in 1973. The oldest title in the group is Arthur C. Hardy’s 1936 Handbook of Colorimetry.

Throughout the summer, we've been checking in, waiting for the first MIT Press books to hit Archive.org's virtual shelves. They're now starting to arrive. Click here to find the beginnings of what promises to be a much larger collection.




As Brewster Kahle (founder of Internet Archive) explained it to Library Journalhis organization is “basically trying to wave a wand over everyone’s physical collections and say, Blink! You now have an electronic version that you can use” in whatever way desired, assuming its permitted by copyright. In the case of MIT Press, it looks like you can log into Archive.org and digitally borrow their electronic texts for 14 days.

Archive.org hopes to digitize 1,500 MIT Press classics by the end of 2017. Digital collections from other publishing houses seem sure to follow.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

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Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

If you haven’t heard of Hugo Gernsback, you’ve surely heard of the Hugo Award. Next to the Nebula, it’s the most prestigious of science fiction prizes, bringing together in its ranks of winners such venerable authors as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, Isaac Asimov, and just about every other sci-fi and fantasy luminary you could think of. It is indeed fitting that such an honor should be named for Gernsback, the Luxembourgian-American inventor who, in April of 1926, began publishing “the first and longest-running English-language magazine dedicated to what was then not quite yet called ‘science fiction,’” notes University of Virginia’s Andrew Ferguson at The Pulp Magazines Project. Amazing Stories provided an “exclusive outlet” for what Gernsback first called “scientifiction,” a genre he would “for better and for worse, define for the modern era.” You can read and download hundreds of Amazing Stories issues, from the first year of its publication to the last, at the Internet Archive.

Like the extensive list of Hugo Award winners, the back catalog of Amazing Stories encompasses a host of geniuses: Le Guin, Asimov, H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, and many hundreds of lesser-known writers. But the magazine “was slow to develop,” writes Scott Van Wynsberghe. Its lurid covers lured some readers in, but its "first two years were dominated by preprinted material,” and Gernsback developed a reputation for financial dodginess and for not paying his writers well or at all.




By 1929, he sold the magazine and moved on to other ventures, none of them particularly successful. Amazing Stories soldiered on, under a series of editors and with widely varying readerships until it finally succumbed in 2005, after almost eighty years of publication. But that is no small feat in such an often unpopular field, with a publication, writes Ferguson, that was very often perceived as “garish and nonliterary.”

In hindsight, however, we can see Amazing Stories as a sci-fi time capsule and almost essential feature of the genre’s history, even if some of its content tended more toward the young adult adventure story than serious adult fiction. Its flashy covers set the bar for pulp magazines and comic books, especially in its run up to the fifties. After 1955, the year of the first Hugo Award, the magazine reached its peak under the editorship of Cele Goldsmith, who took over in 1959. Gone was much of the eyepopping B-movie imagery of the earlier covers. Amazing Stories acquired a new level of relative polish and sophistication, and published many more “literary” writers, as in the 1959 issue above, which featured a “Book-Length Novel by Robert Bloch.”

This trend continued into the seventies, as you can see in the issue above, with a “complete short novel by Gordon Eklund” (and early fiction by George R.R. Martin). In 1982, Ferguson writes, Amazing Stories was sold “to Gary Gygax of D&D fame, and would never again regain the prominence it had before.” The magazine largely returned to its pulp roots, with covers that resembled those of supermarket paperbacks. Great writers continued to appear, however. And the magazine remained an important source for new science fiction—though much of it only in hindsight. As for Gernsback, his reputation waned considerably after his death in 1967.

“Within a decade,” writes Van Wynsberghe, “science fiction pundits were debating whether or not he had created a ‘ghetto’ for hack writers.” In 1986, novelist Brian Aldiss called Gernsback “one of the worst disasters ever to hit the science fiction field.” His 1911 novel, the ludicrously named Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 is considered “one of the worst science fiction novels in history,” writes Matthew Lasar. It may seem odd that the Oscar of the sci-fi world should be named for such a reviled figure. And yet, despite his pronounced lack of literary ability, Gernsback was a visionary. As a futurist, he made some startlingly accurate predictions, along with some not-so-accurate ones. As for his significant contribution to a new form of writing, writes Lasar, “It was in Amazing Stories that Gernsback first tried to nail down the science fiction idea.” As Ray Bradbury supposedly said, “Gernsback made us fall in love with the future.” Enter the Amazing Stories Internet Archive here.

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

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 140,000+ Artistic Images from Its Collections Available on Archive.org

As an Open Culture reader, you might already know the Internet Archive, often simply called "Archive.org," as an ever expanding trove of wonders, freely offering everything from political TV ads to vintage cookbooks to Grateful Dead concert recordings to the history of the internet itself. You might also know the Metropolitan Museum of Art as not just a building on Fifth Avenue, but a leading digital cultural institution, one willing and able to make hundreds of art books available to download and hundreds of thousands of fine-art images usable and remixable under a Creative Commons license.

Now, the Internet Archive and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have teamed up to bring you a collection of over 140,000 art images gathered by the latter and organized and hosted by the former.




Most every digital vault in the Internet Archive offers a cultural and historical journey within, but the collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers an especially deep one, ranging historically from early 19th-century India (The Pleasures of the Hunt at the top of the post) to midcentury New York (the photo of the mighty locomotive before the entrance to the 1939 World's Fair above) and, in either direction, well beyond.

Culturally speaking, you can also find in the Met's collection in the Internet Archive everything from from Japanese interpretations of French photography (the woodblock print French Photographer above) to the Belgian interpretation of Anglo-American cinema (the poster design for Charlie Chaplin's Play Day below). You can dial in on your zone of interest by using the "Topics & Subjects," whose hundreds of filterable options include, to name just a few, such categories as Asia, woodfragmentsLondon, folios, and underwear.

The collection also contains works of the masters, such as Vincent van Gogh's 1887 Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (as well as its obverse, 1885's The Potato Peeler), and some of the world's great vistas, including Francesco Guardi's 1765 rendering of Venice from the Bacino di San Marco. If you'd like to see what in the collection has drawn the attention of most of its browsers so far, sort it by view count: those at work should beware that nudes and other erotically charged artworks predictably dominate the rankings, but they do it alongside Naruto Whirlpool, the Philosopher's Stone, and Albert Einstein. Human interest, like human creativity, always has a surprise or two in store.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Download 200+ Free Modern Art Books from the Guggenheim Museum

For at least half a decade now, New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has been digitizing its exhibition catalogs and other art books. Now you can find all of the publications made available so far — not just to read, but to download in PDF and ePub formats — at the Internet Archive. If you've visited the Guggenheim's non-digital location on Fifth Avenue even once, you know how much effort the institution puts toward the preservation and presentation of modern art, and that comes through as much in its printed material as it does in its shows.

Among the more than 200 Guggenheim art books available on the Internet Archive, you'll find one on a 1977 retrospective of Color Field painter Kenneth Noland, one on the ever-vivid icon-making pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and one on the existential slogans — "MONEY CREATES TASTE," "PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT," "LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL" — slyly, digitally inserted into the lives of thousands by Jenny Holzer. Other titles, like Expressionism, a German Intuition 1905-1920From van Gogh to Picasso, from Kandinsky to Pollock, and painter Wassily Kandinsky's own Point and Line to Plane, go deeper into art history.

Where to start amid all these books of modern (and even some of pre-modern) art? You might consider first having a look at the books in the Internet Archive's Guggenheim collection about the Guggenheim itself: the handbook to its collection up through 1980, for instance, or 1991's Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection: From Picasso to Pollock, or the following year's Guggenheim Museum A to Z, or Art of this Century: The Guggenheim Museum and its Collection from the year after that. But just as when you pay a visit to the Guggenheim itself, you shouldn't worry too much about what order you see everything in; the important thing is to look with interest.

Explore the collection of 200+ art books and catalogues here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Rare Recordings of Burroughs, Bukowski, Ginsberg & More Now Available in a Digital Archive Created by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Image via Christiaan Tonnis

Americans can be quite ignorant of the richness of our country's cultural history. Part of this ignorance, I suspect, comes down to prejudice. Innovative American artists throughout history have come from groups often demonized and marginalized by the wider society. The dominance of corporate commerce also impoverishes the cultural landscape. Poetry and experimental art don’t sell much, so some people think they have little value.

Imagine if we were to invert these attitudes in public opinion: American poetry and art allow us to gain new perspectives from people and parts of the country we don’t know well; to enlarge and challenge our religious and political understanding; to experience a very different kind of economy, built on aesthetic invention and free intellectual enterprise rather than supply, demand, and profit. Creativity and finance are not, of course, mutually exclusive. But to consistently favor one at the expense of the other seems to me a great loss to everyone.

We find ourselves now in such a situation, as public universities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting face severe cuts or possible de-funding.




Such a political move would devastate many of the institutions that foster and preserve the country’s art and culture, and relegate the arts to the private sphere, where only sums of private money determine whose voices get heard. We can, however, be very appreciative of private institutions who make their collections public through open access libraries like the Internet Archive.

One such collection comes from the Digital Initiatives Unit of Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), one of the oldest art colleges in the U.S., and one of the most highly regarded. They have digitally donated to Archive.org “a number of rare and previously unreleased audio recordings,” they write in a press release, “spanning the 1960s through the late 1990s” and consisting of “over 700 audiocassette tapes” documenting “literature and poetry readings, fine art and design lectures, race and culture discussions” and college events.

These include (enter the archive here) a two hour poetry reading from Allen Ginsberg in 1978, at the top, with several other readings and talks from Ginsberg in the archive, the reading below it from Eileen Myles in 1992, and readings and talks above and below from Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman, and William S. Burroughs. The collection represents a “strong focus on literature and poetry,” and features “a symposium on the Black Mountain poets.” Given the school’s mission, you’ll also find in the archive “a large selection of talks and lectures by visual artists, such as Elaine de Kooning, Alice Neel, Gordon Parks, Ad Rhinehart and Ben Shahn.”

Collections like this one from MICA and the Internet Archive allow anyone with internet access to experience in some part the breadth and range of American art and poetry, no matter their level of access to private institutions and sources of wealth. But the internet cannot fully replace or supplant the need for publicly funded arts initiatives in communities nationwide.

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

An Archive of 3,000 Vintage Cookbooks Lets You Travel Back Through Culinary Time

OC bachelor coobook illustration

By the time I got to high school, home economics classes had fallen out of favor: the boys, of course, considered them too "girly," and the girls considered them enforcers of traditional gender roles wholly out of place in modern society. At that time, America's widespread obsession with food still had a few years before its full bloom, and now I imagine that learning to cook has regained a certain cachet even among teenagers. But what of "home economics" itself, that curious banner that combines a definition of economics nobody now quite recognizes with the less-than-fashionable concepts of domesticity, practicality, and necessity?




You can get a sense of the field's history with a visit to the Cookbook and Home Economics Collection at the Internet Archive. Its items, drawn from the Young Research Library Department of Special Collections at UCLA, the Bancroft Library at The University of California, Berkeley, and the Prelinger Library, "take us back to an America in the early decades of the 20th century covering topics on cookery, textiles, family and home, budgeting, domestic sciences, and many other delightful topics." Some will find them more inherently delightful than will others, but the historical value remains undeniable: each and every book in the collection takes us back to a different time and place with its own interests and priorities, in the kitchen as well as elsewhere in the home.

At the Internet Archive blog, Jeff Kaplan highlights such works as the Pilgrim Cook Bookpublished by Chicago’s Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church Ladies’ Aid Society in 1921 and including recipes for Sausage in Potato Boxes, Blitz Torte, Cough Syrup, and Sauerkraut Candy; 1912's more subdued Food for the invalid and the convalescent, with its Beef Juice, Meat Jelly, Cracker Gruel, and advice that, "among other things, beer and pickles are bad for children"; and even older, 1906's A bachelors cupboard; containing crumbs culled from the cupboards of the great unwedded which, warning that “the day of of the ‘dude’ has passed and the weakling is relegated to his rightful sphere in short order,” offers methods for the making of dishes with names like Bed-Spread For Two, Indian Devil Mixture, Hot Birds, and Finnan Haddie.

If we dismissed whatever they taught in high school Home Ec as old-fashioned, then boy, the wisdom preserved in this corner of the Internet Archive exists on a whole other plane. But it also contains more than laughs: the serious student of cuisine and its history will also find the likes of 1907's A Guide to Modern Cookery, the work of French "king of chefs and chef of kings" Auguste Escoffier, as well as — sticking, sensibly, to that most Epicurean of all nations — Le grand dictionnaire de cuisine, a 1200-page encyclopedia-cookbook published just after the death of its author, The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas. As relevance goes, both of them of them surely hold up far better than, say, The whole duty of a woman, or, An infallible guide to the fair sex: containing rules, directions, and observations, for their conduct and behavior through all ages and circumstances of life, as virgins, wives, or widows.

Enter the archive of 3,000+ cookbooks and home ec texts here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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