Andy Leach, director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Library and Archives, gives a behind the scenes look at the Library and Archives in downtown Cleveland.
Things are coming along at the Library and Archives. Our staff moved into our brand new facility in December, and since then, we’ve transferred about a third of our materials from offsite storage and have begun processing these collections in order to make them accessible to the public someday. We’re also in the midst of determining our needs for online systems and data storage and planning our in-house digitization and conversation labs for the long-term preservation of our collections. Behind the scenes, making all of this happen is a very talented and hard-working group of employees, interns, and volunteers. As we continue to interview job candidates and fill new positions, it is increasingly clear to me that by the time we open our doors to the public in late 2010, our Library and Archives will be staffed by a first-class group of music librarians and archivists.
Equally outstanding are the archival collections that our Library and Archives will house. A few weeks ago, our Archivist Jennie Thomas and I were looking through the personal papers of Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006) for the first time. It’s simply amazing what you can discover as you peruse his correspondence, which includes letters from individuals such as Mick Jagger, Henry Kissinger, and Barbara Walters, along with numerous holiday cards sent from the White House over the years. In Ahmet’s appointment books, you learn that on one night he attended a birthday party for Ray Charles and on another night had dinner with the Kissingers. And in a printed list of individuals who called when Ahmet was hospitalized just prior to his death, you see that these people included Robert De Niro, Aretha Franklin, Jagger, and Jerry Wexler.
This is what makes me excited about getting these archival materials out of storage after all these years and making them accessible to people for the first time. Seeing these collections has been a welcome reminder to me of how important archives are and how collections like these can tell us stories. Ahmet Ertegun’s papers illustrate that Ahmet, in addition to being a significant figure in American music history, was much loved as a person and clearly meant a lot to many different kinds of people. This is a great example of what one can learn from an archival collection. While individually these documents might merely be interesting, as a group they begin to tell a story. And sometimes, it may even be a story that hasn’t yet been told. On a final note, we’ve recently been fortunate to receive some great media coverage about the Library and Archives, including stories in local and national newspapers, radio, television, and online sources. In case you missed it, check out John Soeder’s excellent article that ran in Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer on Sunday, February 28. You can read it here. (Also read: Billboard; NY Times).
As always, stay tuned here for further developments on the Library and Archives.