The Marr Sound Archives in the Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is an internationally recognized repository of audio recordings and moving image collections. The sound archives collects, preserves and promotes access to its collections and serves the mission of the UMKC University Libraries to “promote discovery, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge and creative work” by supporting research in to the history of recorded sound. The sound archives’ collections also support and enhance the larger vision of the Libraries in “fostering equity in critical inquiry, providing access to information of enduring value”, and engaging with the community at large.
The purpose of this policy is to outline the scope and rationale behind collecting at the Marr Sound Archives in order to:
- assist in furthering our mission and upholding the professional standards of the library and archival community
- aid the sound archives and other library faculty and staff in selection of materials in a way that is planned, realistic, cohesive, and tied to the institution’s resources and priorities
- inform the public of our selection priorities, and encourage the donation of materials which support our mission and goals
The Marr Sound Archives welcomes researchers of all kinds. The holdings primarily support the scholarly research of UMKC faculty, students, and staff along with the local community. The sound archives also serves scholars, historians, teachers and students at all levels of study, artists, bloggers, radio producers and documentarians. In addition to in-person users, the sound archives provides online access to users from around the globe.
History of Collections
The sound archives was established in 1987, with a foundation gift of 42,000 sound recordings from Gaylord Marr and his wife Olga. An Associate Professor of Communication Studies at UMKC, Marr pioneered the use of historic audiovisual recordings in the classroom.
The collection quickly outgrew its original location in two rooms on the second floor of the Miller Nichols Library. In 1992, the sound archives moved to its present location on the ground floor, adjacent to the Music/Media Library. The 2010 construction of the Robot, an automated storage and retrieval system, has allowed the archives’ collections to continually grow.
Today the collection includes over 400,000 items, featuring a wide variety of music genres including jazz, blues, soul, country, popular music, rock & roll, folk, classical and opera. In addition, a large part of the collection contains historic speeches, interviews, and radio programs. The holdings encompass a wide range of audiovisual formats including LPs, 78s, 45s, cylinders, transcription discs, instantaneous-cut discs, open-reel tapes, CDs, films, videotapes, and digital audiovisual files.
The criteria for collecting materials include: research, exhibit and educational value. Collecting considerations are based on researcher needs, and are guided by current strengths and opportunities to broaden the scope of collections according to the collection development policy. Condition, extent, and preservation or conservation needs of materials, as well as our ability to meet those needs, are also considered in any collecting decision.
Scope of Collecting
Historically, the sound archives has collected commercial recordings that reflect the American experience including popular, jazz, classical, opera, rock ‘n roll, folk, country and other American roots music. As much of that music has become widely available on the Internet, the sound archives has narrowed it’s focus to collecting more unique materials of enduring historical and cultural value that document different facets of history of the Kansas City region, Missouri, and Kansas, as well as, broadcast recordings created in the United States, dating from the advent of sound recording to the present day.
The sound archives is also the repository and access point for all audiovisual materials in LaBudde Special Collections and University Archives. Therefore, any audiovisual materials that fall under their scope of collecting also applies to the Marr Sound Archives. Please see the collection development policies for LaBudde Special Collections and University Archives for details.
Further detail within this broadly outlined scope of collecting for the Marr Sound Archives, including current holdings, strengths, and collecting goals, is set out below:
Format & Types of Materials
The sound archives collects audio recordings, such as LPs, 78 RPM discs, open reel tape, lacquer discs, transcription discs, cassettes, DATs, CDs, and digital files. We also collect moving-image materials, such as VHS, U-matic, Betacam, DVCam, miniDVs, and digital files. Manuscripts, paper, and photographic materials received with audiovisual collections are incorporated into LaBudde Special Collections or UMKC University Archives.
The main geographic scope we actively collect is the Kansas City region. More broadly, Missouri, Kansas, and the trans-Mississippi West are also included. For radio broadcasts, we expand to collect materials that were created and/or broadcasted internationally.
Collection resources span from the creation (1870s) of recorded sound and moving image to the present day.
Currently, collections are primarily in English, as well as items in a variety of other languages including but not limited to Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Hebrew, and Yiddish. We will continue to collect primarily in English, but will consider collections with a portion of materials in other languages or if the materials are of rare broadcasts in other languages.
The subject areas listed below are meant as a general guide to the top collecting priorities, rather than an exhaustive list of all subjects covered in our collections. Some of these build on existing strengths in the collection, while others outline more recent acquisition initiatives for collecting areas we wish to develop. The list is in alphabetical order.
The sound archives collects music recordings and other sound recordings (ex. oral histories, interviews, etc.) that reflect various aspects of the lives of Black Americans, especially those of Missouri and Kansas.
The sound archives houses and preserves the audiovisual materials collected by the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA).
The sound archives collects audiovisual materials from literary organizations and individual authors and poets.
Media and Broadcasting
The sound archives collects and houses a significant amount of radio broadcast recordings, including the Arthur B. Church KMBC Radio Collection, J. David Goldin Collection, Gaylord Marr Collection, Ted Malone Collection, and KCUR Collection.
The sound archives holds a vast number of audio recordings that span the genres of jazz, classical, rock, soul, R&B, country, blues, pop, western, folk, reggae, opera, and more, from around the world. Recently the sound archives has narrowed its collecting focus of music to regional musicians and music performed in the region. Traditionally the collection has had a strong emphasis in jazz music, especially Kansas City jazz.
Social Action and Activism
The sound archives collects a/v materials related to social activism, such as collections related to local labor and feminist movements.
The sound archives collects audiovisual materials of women musicians, especially women jazz musicians, as well as, women documentarians, such as Judy Chaikin and Sue Vicory. The archives also holds several collections of audiovisual materials from Kansas City women’s philanthropic organizations.
Over the years, the collection has been developed by gifts from individuals, businesses and organizations. Collections where ownership is retained by the donor and not transferred to the University will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Purchases of audiovisual collections also only occur under exceptional circumstances.
A maximum of two copies of any commercially published item will generally be retained; exceptions will be made based upon rarity, condition, and unique features (ex. the item has a signature).
Duplicate, out of scope, and other unwanted items donated with collections will be disposed of in accordance with the stipulations of the Deed of Gift. In the absence of a Deed, sound archives staff will exercise their best professional judgment as to appropriate disposition method. Additionally, collection appraisal is a continuing process and the scope of collecting of the institution may change over time.
Materials with restrictions on access or use will generally not be accepted. In some cases, materials of great research value with clearly stated restrictions of limited duration will be considered. Materials will not be accepted if the donor’s legal ownership of them is uncertain. Copies or “dubs” that were created from original source materials are generally not accepted.
The Marr Sound Archives works to have strong relationships with other area repositories whose collecting missions complement and coincide with our own. These include, but are not limited to: the State Historical Society of Missouri-Kansas City Research Center; Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library; the Black Archives of Mid-America, Inc.; the Jackson County Historical Society; and the Johnson County Museum. In addition, the sound archives has relationships with archiving institutions around the US that collect radio broadcasts. Sound archives staff will make referrals whenever possible when materials offered to the department that do not fall within our collecting scope and may be appropriate for these repositories. Moreover, the sound archives’ collection priorities are informed by the collection strengths and priorities at these institutions.
We recognize that collecting focus may change over time in response to a variety of factors. In response to this, we will review this policy upon revisions to the UMKC Libraries Strategic Plan.
This policy was developed based on the “Collection Development Policy for Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections” from the Brooklyn Historical Society.