Growing the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives

Friday, August 31: 11 a.m.
Posted by Jennie Thomas
Master tapes of Cleveland punk legends the Dead Boys are part of the NEOPMA

Earlier this month, myself, the Grateful Dead archivist Nicholas Meriwether (who contributed to the Rock Hall's Grateful Dead: the Long, Strange Trip exhibit and wrote about the Dead's "best performance") and nine other archivists from a wide array of archival institutions presented at the Society of American Archivists’ annual meeting in San Diego.

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national archival professional association. SAA's mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 5,500 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation and use of records of historical value.

Archivists from The Pennsylvania State University; McDonald’s Corporation; Harley Davidson Motor Company; University of Alabama Rare Books and Special Collections; The Coca-Cola Company; ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives; Microsoft Corporation; American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming; the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center; the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives, gathered to each give a 5-minute talk about archival advocacy in their institutions and dialogue with each other and members of the audience on this important topic. 

The goals of the session were to define how archivists reach beyond the institutional barriers of time, staffing and money to effectively advocate for collections, and highlight creative collaborations and outreach opportunities for both external and internal communities to become stakeholders in the archives. The archivists’ specific topics ranged from exhibits that sparked institutional controversy to effectively handling the public’s emotional ties to your collections, to collaborating with other institutions and educating both your institutional users and external patrons, to balancing ethical considerations with providing appropriate public service and archiving underrepresented local communities.

I discussed the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives (NEOPMA), a group of archival collections (including the papers of Jane Scott and Jim Clevo, master tapes of the Dead Boys’ recording sessions, handwritten lyrics by Joe Walsh, concert posters and photographs promoting local rock groups and by local artists, and hundreds of hours of recordings of local college radio station shows and bands), and library materials (including extensive runs of local magazines Scene, Alternative Press and U.S. Rocker, and numerous books and commercial audio and video recordings, such as Mike Hudson’s Diary of a Punk and Cheetah Chrome’s A Dead Boy’s Tale, among many others) that the Library and Archives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is actively developing related to local and regional popular music focused on the musicians, radio stations, record labels, recording studios, music venues, concert promoters, booking agencies, poster artists and music publishers in Northeast Ohio. The objectives for the NEOPMA are to preserve an important part of Northeast Ohio’s cultural heritage, create a valuable in-depth resource for researchers of all kinds, strengthen the relationship between the Rock Hall and the local music community, and result in a variety of locally-relevant public programs at the Library and Archives, including lectures, panel discussions, performances and other events.

It was evidently an effective five minutes, because I soon had my first new addition to the NEOPMA collection! A few moments after the session ended, Trent Purdy of Tucson’s Lysergic Sound Distributors (and a M.A. in Library Science from the University of Arizona), came up to me to offer the Library and Archives a complimentary copy of a four song 7-inch EP re-release of a restored and re-mastered 1970s acetate recording by the Akron, Ohio, band Bold Chicken.

Stiv Bator image from Anastasia Pantsios Photographs, Library and Archives, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.


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