UCSB researchers contributed recordings to the Library of Congress’ National Jukebox library to help create a free online database of historical audio footage.
The website — launched on May 10 — is the largest publicly accessible collection of its kind and features over 10,000 soundtracks of music, poetry and political speeches from as early as 1900. Davidson Library staffers Sam Brylawski, Megan MacMillan and Jill Breedon have helped edit the project’s discography for the past six years.
According to David Seubert, performing arts collection and special collections curator at Davidson Library and the UCSB program director for National Jukebox, the university’s archives account for nearly half of the website’s material dating from before 1925.
“The site contains 10,300 pre-1925 recordings, about half of which were digitized from UCSB’s collection,” Seubert said in an e-mail. “The underlying metadata for the Jukebox is from our Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. We’ve long hoped that the discography would enable an access project like this and we are pleased that the Library of Congress wanted to partner with us to make that possible.”
The Sony-owned Victor Talking Machine Company — an early 20th century phonograph producer — contributed a significant portion of the audio files through its Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. UCSB edits and operates the encyclopedia’s database to provide detailed information on the recordings and make them easily searchable online.
According to Assistant University Librarian Brian Mathews, the project is attempting to preserve and catalog important historical recordings for the public’s use.
“Imagine all these old vinyl records are out there, but there isn’t an index or catalog or other information about them anywhere,” Mathews said. “We are trying to collect them and provide detailed information, sort of like citations, and putting it in a free database.”
The archive features a broad mix of content such as opera, yodeling, blues, jazz and speeches from political figures like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Visitors can navigate through the material, create playlists, see artist biographies and view label images using the site’s interactive features.
Mathews said the website makes material previously difficult to locate readily accessible and easy to filter through.
“The National Jukebox is fantastic because it opens the doors to thousands of rare and historical sound recordings,” Mathews said. “These are extremely valuable to scholars, students and cultural enthusiasts around the world, and the amazing thing is that they are all free to listen to.”
The Sony-owned recording company adds about 1,000 new recordings to the database per month. The database can further increase its collection if the project receives donations and additional labels.
Mathews said the library’s staff appreciates the opportunity to contribute toward the national project.
“The UCSB Library is proud to be involved,” Mathews said. “Our metadata is a backbone, enabling people to discover these important cultural treasures.”
The National Jukebox is located online at http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/.