The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will be used to conduct a comprehensive preservation needs assessment for its nationally significant sound collection of more than 10,000 recordings.
Founded in 1893, The Library houses one of the oldest and most significant collections of Judaica in the Western hemisphere.
The large and diverse collection documents the Jewish experience in America and includes Jewish music, speeches, radio broadcasts, and lectures by prominent scholars and public figures. Of particular importance are the archival recordings that were produced from 1914-1994 that include unique collections of field recordings on aluminum disks of biblical chanting styles of the different ethnic groups settling in British Palestine during the pre-World War II period and early commercial recordings of liturgical music (1921-1928) and Yiddish songs (1914-1945). Lectures, from the Joseph and Miriam Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism collection, includes discourses by David Ben Gurion, Abba Eban, and Raul Alfonsin, World War II-era Jewish radio programs broadcast to US servicemen, and Coretta Scott King’s address at a memorial service for Abraham Joshua Heschel.
The NEH-funded preservation needs assessment is the first step in The Library’s efforts to make the archival recordings widely accessible to musicologists, ethnomusicologists, historians, folklorists and others actively seeking out these materials for research, music education, and personal pleasure. The Library has fast-tracked assessment and treatment of the sound collections because of the urgent need to mitigate the deterioration of the very rare aluminum disks and reel-to-reel tapes, and technology now makes it possible to make historically significant sound recordings widely available via the internet.
A portion of the grant will also be used to train The Library’s music archivist, public services librarian, and general archivist in audio-visual collections preservation management.
Further information about the NEH grant is available by contacting Naomi Steinberger, director of library services, at (212) 678-8982. Visit The Library website to learn more.
Editors/Reporters: For further information please contact Sherry S. Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953.