Syracuse University Library awarded $250,000 grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $250,000 to Syracuse University Library for the creation of detailed descriptive catalog records for historical 78-rpm sound recordings held by the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive. SU Library will join another 78s cataloging project that was previously funded by the Mellon Foundation, partnering with Yale University, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Stanford University.

The 14-month grant project will focus on 9,000 recordings on the Decca label. Decca has historical significance as the third-largest producer of 78-rpm recordings in the United States (after Victor and Columbia), beginning in 1934. Decca had contracts with many star performers of the day, such as the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo & the Royal Canadians, the Ted Lewis Band, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, Dick Powell, Gene Kelly, Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters.

Access to complete and accurate information about these recordings will enable scholars and others to locate materials that document social and cultural mores, performance practices and historical theories. Until recently, information about these recordings was scattered, appearing in a variety of discographies, card catalogs, stand-alone databases and the brief catalog records in the Rigler-Deutsch Index. These newly created records will be fully searchable in SU Library’s online catalog and will be added to the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) WorldCat database, along with those from Yale, New York Public Library and Stanford. Detailed catalog records will also allow the library to promote the resources in a variety of ways, such as by genre, subject and performer.

Commenting on the award, SU Librarian and Dean of Libraries Suzanne Thorin says, “I am grateful for Mellon’s support to make more of Syracuse University Library’s rich humanities collections available for scholarship. We are pleased to join Yale, New York Public Library and Stanford on this exciting project.”

SU’s Belfer Archive is one of the five largest sound recordings repositories in the United States, with a collection of nearly 337,000 recordings representing America’s cultural history in recorded sound, along with a significant number of historical playback devices and recording artifacts.
For more information about the project, contact Melinda Dermody, head of Arts and Humanities Services at SU Library, at (315) 443-5332 or mderm01@syr.edu.





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