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Vassar College Archival Recordings Project: Music as Document and Indicator of Social Change


Vassar College's Dickinson Music Library has been collecting recordings of music-making at the college since the late 1930s. These recordings document Vassar songs, class parties (musicals), a cappella groups, intercollegiate choral and musical collaborations between faculty, students and members of the local community. Many of these one-of-a kind recordings are fragile and irreplaceable; they could not be used without causing damage. In 2019 staff from the Dickinson Music Library, Digital Scholarship and Technology Services, and Vassar's Grants Development Office collaborated to write a proposal for a CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) Recordings at Risk grant to fund the digitization of these recordings.   

Project description

The Vassar College Archival Recordings collection captures nearly 80 years of collegiate music traditions, oral histories, and iimage1.jpegntercollegiate and local collaborations between faculty, students, and the surrounding community. These unique recordings help to document changes in higher education, including Vassar’s transition from single sex to a co-educational college, and are valuable to scholars in fields ranging from gender and cultural studies, to musicology and local histories. Much of Vassar’s collection is deteriorating, inadequately cataloged and inaccessible to researchers. Digitization will foster scholarship in this under-researched area by preserving this rich primary source material. In this project, Vassar Libraries will partner with the Northeast Document Conservation Center and George Blood Audio Visual to digitize recordings at greatest risk, provide online access, enhance metadata, ingest master files and metadata into Vassar’s digital repository, and promote this collection.