Desperately seeking new home: 3 million sound recordings

The non-profit archive was founded in 1985 by B George, who seeded it with his own collection of 47,000 records and originally housed it in New York City

Christine KiernanReuters
Published : 2 Feb 2024, 05:06 AM
Updated : 2 Feb 2024, 05:06 AM

Since the start of the pandemic, one of the world's largest collections of popular music has been housed in a former pig barn in rural New York state.

But difficulty obtaining permits linked to zoning issues means the Archive of Contemporary Music is looking for a new home.

The non-profit archive was founded in 1985 by B George, who seeded it with his own collection of 47,000 records and originally housed it in New York City.

With the intention of storing two copies of everything - one to be used for listening, and a second as an archival copy - it has since grown to more than 3 million sound recordings.

The archive consists of LPs and 45s, 8 tracks and cylinder disks, along with books, posters, and vintage memorabilia. Music from across the globe is represented, and the genres range from rock and roll and blues to African, punk, country, hip hop and experimental.

"Some people say we're like the dumpster of pop music," George said. "I always like to say, no, we're more like Molly Bloom at the end of "Ulysses," where we just say yes, yes, yes to everything."

Rare items include a mint copy white label of an early Rolling Stones record signed by the whole band, a copy of David Bowie's "Hunky Dory" that the singer signed and decorated with glitter, and a 78 format record of Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues" that musician Keith Richards purchased for the archive.

Once the archive has found a new home, George envisions it becoming a public research centre that could serve as a library, host resident scholars, and perhaps even include a recording studio for the next generation to put down some tracks.

"I know for a fact, and I'm probably wrong like every science fiction writer, but there won't be Apple in the future. There won't be Microsoft in the future. But there'll be vinyl," he said.