Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Library and Archives

In 1983, a small group of music industry professionals set out to establish an organization to recognize the people who have created the most popular music of our time.  These professionals formed a nonprofit organization that would eventually become the Foundation. In 1986, the  Foundation held the first annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in  New York City.  Later that year Cleveland was selected as the permanent home of the Hall of Fame and Museum, which finally opened in 1995. In 2008, the Foundation provided an $8 million gift which was used to build the Library and Archives center and a redesign of the museum.

The Library and Archives mission: “The Library and Archives is the most comprehensive repository of materials relating to the history of rock and roll. Our mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to these resources for scholars, educators, students, journalists, and the general public in order to broaden awareness and understanding of rock and roll, its roots, and its impact on our society.”

Jeff Gold Collection , Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Jeff Gold Collection , Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Their website does not include a formal collection policy but they do have a page that focuses on what they collect. They collect materials relating to the history of rock and roll and related music genres, Hall of Fame inductees and other significant artists, and relevant subjects such as the music business and music criticism.

Patti Smith Collection, Correspondence, 1976-1979, undated
Patti Smith Collection, Correspondence, 1976-1979, undated

They further list types of materials they collect: personal papers, photographs, recordings, ephemera, periodicals, etc.  If a potential donor has any further questions on whether certain materials fit their scope they are encouraged to contact the staff or to search their catalog for examples of what they collect.

The collections are managed by nine staff members that include a director, a public services librarian, three archivists, a catalog and metadata librarian, a library collections coordinator, a digital access and systems librarian, and a public services assistant.

In addition to the collections of major artists, the Library and Archives is actively developing its collections relating to local and regional popular music by establishing the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives.  These collections include personal papers, photographs, song manuscripts, business records, poster, and rare audio and video recordings.

There are no digitized collections on their website.  To access the collections a user must present a valid researcher card, complete the archives orientation, and follow all reading room procedures.  Online you can search their catalog, browse archival collections, search databases, and a list of 28 research guides for different artists is available. The browse archival collections page lists all of their collections.  You can click on a collection and you are taken to the finding aid. 

Finding Aid

One feature that I think is really neat are the research guides.  Research guides are compiled lists of resources from the archives.  These guides include biographical information, a list of books and DVDS available in their library, and a list of archival collections or a link to search results for a specific artist.  Also included are youtube videos of interviews, induction ceremonies, and music videos.  BlondieChuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and the Everly Brothers are just a few of the artists that have compiled research guides.



The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Archives

In 1929, Lillie Bliss, Mary Sullivan, Abby Rockefeller, and the Board of Trustees founded the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).  Each of the three women used their own resources and private collections to start a niche museum to house modern art, in opposition to traditional museums of the time, which preferred classical pieces of art.  The museum opened to the public in 1939, and still resides in the same building that started it all in Midtown Manhattan, New York.


It wasn’t until 1989 that the Board of Trustees established the archives for the museum in order “to preserve and make accessible the Museum’s historical records to Museum staff, outside scholars, researchers, and to create and direct the Museum’s Records Management Program.”  Their archival collections consists of a variety of formats such as sound records, microfilm, videotapes, manuscripts, photographs, minutes and reports.  The collection specifically includes records relevant to the Museum’s history, personal papers of curators, directors, Trustees and former staff when relevant to Museum interests or history, oral histories, twentieth-century primary resource material, including papers, manuscripts, and photographs, and a photographic archive comprised of tens of thousands of images.

photo courtesy of Timothy Hursley
Exterior of the Museum of Modern Art
photo courtesy of Timothy Hursley

Archival collections are selected if they offer art historical or sociopolitical value, research potential, or legal importance.  These collections can be collected through a variety of means such as Museum activities, personnel documents, manuscripts relating to the art collection, and administrative paperwork.  The MoMA Archive’s website clearly states what kinds of materials are retained by the archives, which allows researchers to know what material is available and whether they can access it.  Their internal collections policy is a little vague in what materials will be selected, but it is clear that the mission to collect, preserve, and make accessible Museum records of value is emphasized.  Restrictions are imposed on sensitive documents relating to Trustee activities, current transactions, and personnel matters to protect privacy rights and the interests of the Museum.

MoMA Number:141.1957 Photo courtesy of MoMA
Edgar Degas, “At the Milliner’s”
MoMA Number:141.1957
Photo courtesy of MoMA

So, how do you go about finding stuff in their archives?  What about using it?   How do I do it!?  There are two locations that house MoMA’s archival material.  The Manhattan location is open Wednesday through Friday 1:00-5:00 p.m.  The Queens location is open Monday 11:00 a.m -5:00 p.m.  Appointments are required, so if you plan to go make sure to prepare in advance.  It is recommended that basic research on a topic is completed prior to visiting the MoMA’s Archives.  There is a database (called DADABASE) where researchers can browse or search for specific materials as well as a page that lists collections, which links to the finding aids of specific collections.  Researchers will need to bring a photo ID (driver’s license, student ID, or Institutional ID only) to use for access to the Archives.  A majority of the collections are only available on-site, but a few are available for interlibrary loan through the Archives of American Art.  Otherwise, if you were looking to research at MoMA, you would have to make a trip to New York.

Jackson Pollock, "White Light MoMA Number:337.1967 © 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jackson Pollock, “White Light
MoMA Number:337.1967
© 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Museum of Modern Art employs a full-time Museum Archivist, an Associate Archivist, an Associate Archivist, a Records Manager, and a part-time assistant.  Periodically, if they receive grant funding, they hire other employees and interns.  If you are looking to be a part of MoMA, they have a jobs page, and an interns page for more information.  They also have volunteer opportunities!

I think one of the coolest things about this archives is the collection of oral histories.  The finding aid lists the person interviewed, the year of the interview, and offers transcripts and video clips (view-able online!).  Check out some of the videos here!

National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution

The National Anthropological Archives (NAA) is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum research organization. (1) Specifically, the NAA is a part of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) “dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning about the natural world.” (2) The NAA is the premier U.S. archival collection that focuses on preserving research and materials related to the study of anthropology including “ethnographic, archaeological, and linguistic fieldnotes, physical anthropological data, photographs, sound recordings and other media created by American anthropologists.” (3) As a part of the larger NMNH, the archives “collect and preserve historical and contemporary anthropological materials that document the world’s cultures and the history of anthropology.” (4)

Highlight: Edward S. Curtis Photography Collection:

Edward Curtis

The archives origin lies in the efforts of John Wesley Powell, one of America’s earliest anthropologists. In 1879, Powell began to consolidate the disperse notes and reports collected by American geological surveys funded by the U.S. Government. Powell brought the archival collections to the Smithsonian and with an Act of Congress founded the Bureau of American Ethnology “to organize anthropological research in America.” (5) The NAA has collected continuously since that era, and the Smithsonian BAE Bulletin series is still used by anthropologists today. (6) Among his many other accomplishments, Powell was also a member of the team of European Americans first to explore the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. (7) In 1967 the BAE merged with the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology (founded in 1897) and the NAA has been managed under the department since that time. (8)

Highlight: George L. Waite “Desert Sheiks” Lantern Slides:

The collections include the fieldnotes, photographs, and other collected data from many anthropological expeditions, both those sponsored by the Smithsonian as well as by numerous other organizations and universities. The collection has 8,250 linear feet of fieldnotes and notebooks. (9) In addition to paper records, the collection includes “635,000 ethnological and archaeological photographs, 20,000 works of native art, 11,400 sound recordings, and more than 8 million feet of original film and video materials.” The oldest collections date to the 1840s, and include the work of Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry on documenting the indigenous people of North America. Other records include those from the BAE, the U.S. National Museum’s Divisions of Ethnology and Physical Anthropology, the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology, the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Ethnological Society, and the Society for American Archaeology. (10) The collection is described in numerous (about 800) guides and archival finding aids for each archival sub-collection, presented for the public on the NAA website (11a / 11b). The archives also support an online searchable catalog named SIRIS (The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System) that lists paper materials and other physical objects in the archives, and also serves as the search interface for their digitized materials such as photographs. (12a / 12b) The predominant users of the physical collections are anthropologists and other scholars, but the archives are open to the public. (13) To visit the NAA one must schedule an appointment and get a pass to enter. (14) Copies of some materials can be ordered. (15)

Highlight: Kiowa Art:

The collections mission and policy for the NAA is wrapped up within the larger National Museum of Natural History Collections Management Policy. The NMNH is “dedicated to the study of the natural world, including humans and the cultures they have created and maintain. As part of the larger Smithsonian mission, the NMNH is committed to the increase of knowledge and to disseminating that knowledge to the public” and “and allow the museum to make unique contributions to answering significant scientific questions and responding to national mandates, priorities, and concerns.” Further, “the NMNH is committed to long-term stewardship of the collections and to supporting their use by scientists and the general public.” (16) The NAA documents the development of the discipline of Anthropology. (17) The NAA specifically is “interested in everything an anthropologist creates, plus items that illuminate his or her public career and private life. We also collect materials that facilitate anthropological research that have been created by other professionals (such as linguists and ethnohistorians). Our collections include fieldnotes, diaries, photographs, sound recordings, film, video, teaching materials, lecture notes, grant applications, manuscript reviews, editorial business, correspondence (both personal and professional), diaries, ephemeral materials, and electronic files.” Much of the collection appears to come from donations from academic anthropologists, or the anthropologists with the Smithsonian. The NAA does not collect library materials (there is a separate Smithsonian anthropological collection). (18)

  5. -/-/-
  11.  -/-/-
  12.  -/-/-

University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center

The Immigration History Research Center on the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis Campus is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! It was founded in 1965 to promote the research of race, migration, and ethnicity in the US.

In 2013, IHRC launched a project called Immigrant Stories: Digital Stories by Immigrants and Refugees, to document, preserve, and share the unique stories of families coming to the US.

Some of these videos can be viewed on Youtube on the Immigration History Research Center’s channel.

IHRCThe IHRC focuses its collections to document the story of millions of immigrants that have settled and made the United States what it is today. The holdings include both published and non-published materials of serials, newspapers, personal papers, and organizational records. IHRC has a wide collection of both still and moving images in their collections as well. The majority of the collections relate to groups that were part of the massive migration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries from eastern, central, and southern Europe, as well as Near Eastern ethnic groups. IHRC also has collections relating to earlier and more recent migrations including refugees from all over the globe.

View from IHRC
View from IHRC

Their collections are organized largely by immigrant ethnic group. Although, some of the collections have an organization created by immigrants or in immigrant communities as their main focus. Their collections are gathered from all over the United States, as well as internationally, mainly through donations and gifts. To access the great collections available from the Immigration History Research Center, it is recommended that you make an appointment to visit. Some of the collections have been made available online through their website, or the University of Minnesota Libraries website. IHRC has put many of their finding aids on their website to help researchers and patrons, which include faculty, staff, and students of the University of Minnesota, genealogists, and immigrants.

If you are interested in what is was, or is, like for immigrants coming to the United States, this is an excellent place to start. The IHRC website has a 19 minute video that you can download and watch for more information on what they do, and why they do it. Go ahead and check it out for yourself today!

Black Cultural Archives, Brixton, London, UK


The Black Cultural Archives is located in the Brixton area of London. The BCA was founded in 1981 as a response to the race riots that took place in various English cities. According to their subject guide, the riots were caused by “racism and hostility towards Black and ethnic minority communities”, stemming from the large and sudden influx of Black immigrants after World War II. As their mission statement says, the BCA aims to “collect, preserve and celebrate the heritage and history of Black people in Britain.” While their physical location has changed over the years, in the summer of 2014 the BCA finally opened its permanent location in Raleigh Hall, a formerly derelict historic building. According to the website, they are the “UK’s first dedicated Black heritage center.”

Raleigh Hall in 2004
Black Cultural AS
Raleigh Hall after its opening in July 2014 as the new Black Cultural Archives

b7ff4e9525aba9919de902d0c7e6007b905d59d9The Black Cultural Archives’ opening exhibit was Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain. They are currently running Staying Power: Photographs of the Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s. Staying Power includes photographs borrowed from the Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A is also running a concurrent display of photographs until the end of May.


While the BCA has no posted collection policy, their FAQ pertaining to donations suggests that their collections concentrate on twentieth century history, with some interest in items related to the 1700s and 1800s. Further, their cultural focus explicitly centers on people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. Somewhat counter-intuitive to this statement, the BCA has a collection of papers from Alexandre Dumas. While Dumas’s paternal grandmother was an enslaved woman from Haiti, Dumas is predominantly connected with France. Thus, I would conclude that the BCA, similar to many institutions, is willing to keep a good collection even if it does not explicitly fulfill their policy.

IMG_6655 (Large)

IMG_6647 (Large)

Their archives contain materials donated by individuals, as well as collections donated by larger organizations. Significant collections are defined by subject matter. Their website contains a list of personal papers collections organized by person, as well as a list of organizations for which the BCA has a number of collected materials. Another page gives links to subject guides for thematic collections relating to periodicals, arts, representation, education, uprisings, the black women’s movement, publishing, enslavement, and ephemera. The latter of which is currently being organized more closely by subject. The collections are open to the public through exhibits, and also by appointment in their reading room.African Caribbean War Memorial TruthHitman pic

They have many great items, some newer than others. For example, in November of 2014, the BCA unveiled an African and Caribbean war memorial, dedicated to those of African descent who served Great Britain in World War I and II.

Another collection revolves around the events that led to the beginning of the BCA: the riots of the 1980s. This collection includes photographs, eye witness accounts, police reports, campaign literature, and newspaper clippings. These riots were a time of great turmoil in the UK and this collection presents that in an effective manner.tumblr_nj0afztLyg1qlx67mo1_500


So, on your next trip to London, drop by the Black Cultural Archives and see the history of Black Britain at this brand new location.

Archives at the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History preserves and shares information about the natural world, human culture, and the universe.

This far-reaching mission produces collections and exhibits that serve as a field guide for the entire planet.

ID: 335068<br>Children studying relief globe, 1914

Image Number: 335068
“Children studying relief globe, 1914,” Kirschner, Julius.

At the museum, each research division holds their own collection of specimens and artifacts, as well as library and archival materials. Many of the items on display today were collected during expeditions sponsored by the museum during its early history from 1869 to the 1930s. Collections are supplemented by ongoing research conducted by museum scientists today.

ID: 326625<br>Girl viewing triceratops skeleton, Cretaceous Hall, 1959

Image Number: 326625
“Girl viewing triceratops skeleton, Cretaceous Hall, 1959,” Rota, Alex J. and Yourow, Morton.

Outside researchers and students can use the specimen and archive collections at the museum by making a formal appointment through the departments: Anthropology, Invertebrate Zoology, Paleontology, Physical Sciences, Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vertebrate Zoology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Mammalogy, and Ornithology.


ID: 325321<br>Photographs, film reel, slides, and miniature busts, 1957

Image Number: 325321
“Photographs, film reel, slides, and miniature busts, 1957,” Logan, Robert Elwood.

The archives at the Museum of Natural History are a great place for researchers at any level to start looking more closely at the museum’s collections. The amount of digitized content available on the museum’s website makes it possible for those interested in the stories behind the artifacts to dig a little deeper. Finding aids can be accessed online for many of the museum’s research divisions, providing descriptions of the items in their collections, including those held in the library and archives. Some specimen and artifact collections have been photographed digitally, and these can be viewed online along with manuscript catalogs depicting their original arrangement (see the Anthropology collection and manuscript catalog here). Items from the Anthropology archives, including field notes and photographs are also viewable online alongside related artifacts here.

 Untitled2         Untitled

Field notes in German from the Finsch Pacific Expeditions (1879-1885), Otto Finsch, accessed via


Field notebook of Henry F. Osborn 1896, Paleontolgist

The museum’s institutional archives are held in the Research Library. This collection includes manuscripts, personal papers, field notebooks, photographs, and other archival documents relating to the museum, its scientists, and collections. Many items in the archives, including an extensive collection of historical expedition photographs, have been digitized and can be viewed online. The Research Library’s Digital Special Collections website provides instant access to thousands of digitized items, ranging from historical museum photographs and research documents, to unique art, memorabilia and rare books.

ID: LS5-36<br>Woman wearing headdress, Mongolia

Image Number: LS5-36 “Woman wearing headdress, Mongolia,” Unknown photographer

ID: LS179-30<br>Inah-loo sewing, Greenland

Image Number: LS179-30 “Inah-loo sewing, Greenland,” Unknown photographer

 ID: 25129<br>Jaggar, Mac Donald, Hovey, and Curtis with porters, expedition portrait, ascent of La Soufriere, St. Vincent, 1902

Image Number: 25129 “Jaggar, Mac Donald, Hovey, and Curtis with porters, expedition portrait, ascent of La Soufriere, St. Vincent, 1902,” Hovey, Edmund Otis, 1862-1924

 ID: LS3-47<br>Alonzo Pond and Roy Chapman Andrews discuss uses of 20,000 year-old stone implements, Third Asiatic Expedition

Image Number: LS3-47 “Alonzo Pond and Roy Chapman Andrews discuss uses of 20,000 year-old stone implements, Third Asiatic Expedition,” Unknown photographer

These archival documents give us a firsthand look at the way research was conducted historically in the fields of anthropology, ethnology, archeology, and paleontology. Looking more closely at them can give us a better view of the people, landscapes, and stories connected to the exhibits we see at the museum.

Browsing the digitized collection feels like going to the museum without actually being there. The collections show the history of the museum through instant views of exhibits, artifacts, and specimens over time. Archival folders of notes, photographs, and illustrations preserve the little details that went into planning and constructing the museum’s early exhibits.

 ID: ppc_533_b02_f053_005<br>Lions, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals

Image Number: ppc_533_b02_f053_005 “Lions, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals”

 ID: ppc_533_b02_f053_003<br>Landscapes, some with dwellings and vehicle, Africa, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals

Image Number: ppc_533_b02_f053_003 “Landscapes, some with dwellings and vehicle, Africa, photographs mounted to card, for use in Lion Group, Akeley Hall of African Mammals,” Unknown photographer

The digital archives of the Museum of Natural History provide new ways to dig deeper into the museum’s collections. They are accessible for critical examination, or the simple enjoyment of history, nature, science, art, and people.

 ID: art_003_b2_11<br>Plants and flowers, botanical illustration for use in Bighorn Sheep Group

Image Number: art_003_b2_11 “Plants and flowers, botanical illustration for use in Bighorn Sheep Group.”

 ID: 2A2430<br>John Burroughs and child, New York

Image Number: 2A2430 “John Burroughs and child, New York,” Unknown, AMNH Digital Special Collections, accessed February 8, 2015

Post by Margaret Durow

The Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center

The Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center, Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Cole Brothers Circus Herald. Courtesy of the Robert L. Parkinson Library, Circus World Museum.

The Circus World Museum began with John M. Kelley, the personal attorney for the Ringling brothers, who had retired to Baraboo, Wisconsin. Along with members of the Gollmar Family, cousins to the Ringling family, the Circus World Museum was created as a historical and educational facility in 1954. Following Circus World’s opening on July 1, 1959, the site was deeded to the Wisconsin Historical Society. The Library at the Circus World Museum began in 1965 by Charles Philip “Chappie” Fox, who was the museum director during that time. The first circus books and posters that were housed in the library were from Chappie’s personal collection. Eventually, Robert L. Parkinson was hired to be the library’s director. Parkinson directed the Circus World Museum’s Library and Research Center for 26 years until 1991. Although he was not a trained librarian, Parkinson guided the acquisition, cataloging and conservation of the collection through his vast circus knowledge, building it into the world’s largest research archive devoted to circus history. Many different formats of materials are collected, including paper, photographs, sound recordings, books, videos, magazines, and compact discs.

The Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center defines itself as:

The world’s foremost research facility for circus history. The holdings document the history of the American circus from its inception in 1793 to the present day. It contains a huge collection containing rare photographs, posters, manuscripts and artifacts. With information on some 2,800 American circuses, and a reference file of over 300,000 names of circus performers and employees, it is a prime source of information for enthusiasts and scholars of the circus from all over the world.

Not only does the large reference files of circus performers serve as a unique genealogical resource, the Parkinson Library and Research Center houses an exceptional collection of advertising materials, including circus heralds (pictured above). A herald was a form of advertisement used by circuses in conjunction with posters and curriers, and would be distributed in advance of the arrival of a circus. Usually lacking any color and printed on newsprint, heralds often had the same appearance as a hand bill and could range from a one page one-sided item to a multi-paged publication similar in appearance to a newspaper. Their historical value not only comes in being able to follow where a specific circus traveled during a specific time, but is also helpful for genealogists as a unique item to identify ancestors that were performers featured on the heralds from a specific circus.

Group photo of all the side-show performers from the Barnum and Bailey Circus, 1903. Courtesy of the Robert L. Parkinson Library.

Genealogists and circus enthusiasts are the most common users of the library. The Parkinson Library is currently managed by archivist Pete Shrake. Materials can be accessed either by setting up an in person visit via an appointment or by accessing the online library catalog where digitized materials can be viewed.