Monday, March 25, 2013

Local studies, music and dance - a few ideas

Music seems to be under represented in many local studies collections in public libraries.   It could be that I am looking in the wrong places, however, I don't see many public libraries anywhere with a music collection as part of how they collect and tell the local stories of their community, and few with stories of music from or about their area.  I realise that this is a difficult area, but it is also possible to collect in these areas, as Cork, for example is doing.

Music is a way for story telling for the local community, as bands and singing groups interact in different such as in pubs or community halls.  Music is an important connector for a community and can be important as a community meeting point.  There is much potential for oral histories to be done in this area, and to collect music which has been created as part of library programs.

Exhibit: 1908, When the Democrats Came to Denver from The Denver Public Library on Vimeo.

Some songs specifically mention place names and these should be collected for local studies, in the same way some libraries include recipe books in local studies collections when they have been written by locals (for example books by Bill Granger and Kylie Kwong form part of the local studies collection at Surry Hills Library, only a few minutes from where their restaurants are located).  

Working with local musicians (and they don't have to be famous, just local) as a way of collecting audio and video content is important. They don’t have to be famous, but being local is important.  Don’t forget copyright, work with it.

The Library of Congress has a national jukebox, you could have a local one.  The Smithsonian has Folkways, which has some very local music as part of the collection.

A recent article from the MIT Centre for Civic Media called Dancing in the square: street music as activism, shows some aspects as to why music is a crucial for local studies collections as it helps to tell the story of a community.  This article about punk rock from New York has some similar inspiration for local studies work.  Dongan Hills Public Library has a Wuseum, because of hip hop.   I think there are exciting music or music related collecting opportunities for local studies collections.  You might even want to collect the sounds of your community, expanding the idea of acoustic records of your area (as the British Library is doing).

I haven't mentioned dance much, but the principles are basically the same.  Your local studies information/archives/recordings in the library will be tracking local changes over time - a very exciting thing to be able to do.

I had just finished this post when I saw this Keeping things fresh: Steampunk rapper Professor Elemental on hip-hop and education and this one by Matt Finch.  Both of these posts help show (implicitly) the importance of music to a local studies collection in a public library.

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