On Special Music Collections

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Issues of the punk-rock fanzine Slash are included as part of UCLA’s punk archive. Photo: UCLA Library Special Collections – from the American Libraries Rock in the Vault Article – May 2, 2016.

I’ve been talking for some time about the need for a special music collection on Metal music in NYC, so I was glad to see this recent article entitled, Rock in the Vault published over at the American Libraries website. It’s about how university libraries are becoming the new place to go for music archives.

The article mentions both Rutger’s growing collection on rock, hardcore and punk music as well as Cornell’s collection on the Hip Hop genre.

As for NY, we’ve a rich tri-state history on Metal. There’s venues that could offer historical information like L’Amour’s of Brooklyn or even the closed down record store Metal Kingdom in Queens. Ephemeral materials abound in the form of zines, cassettes, vinyls, patches and documentaries. As a metal music scholar & librarian, having physical collections as primary resources is just one way we can solidify and start building our place in the larger academic world.

It would be my dream to start this at Columbia…so here’s hoping I find a way here or elsewhere.   \m/

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Archiving, Librarianship, and Art

So the other day I was digging through old papers and found this antiquated gem–it’s basically the opener to an essay I submitted that eventually got me the grant to gain my archives certificate while I was studying Library Science at Pratt Institute, back in 2006. Sadly, my archives certificate is gathering dust, as my career has moved onto more acquisitions-based duties. However, I can say without a doubt that the skills I’ve gained with archival practice have stayed with me, especially through my ongoing collecting of heavy metal music ephemera. Upon re-reading this section of my essay, I got nostalgic and a bit weepy if I really admit, that yes, this was a great reminder of why I wanted to study archives and be a librarian.

During my undergraduate years, I was a double major in Art (Drawing & Painting) and Art History (Medieval Art & Architecture). Being an art student gave me an easy way to transition into librarianship. I was in the slide library at my school on most days researching for art assignments anyway! And, I recall becoming heavily-influenced with visual resources and their influence on poets, writers, musicians and painters. The strong impact of an image on the brain was something I could never ignore. The visual image, as created by an artist, arises as part expression, part dreams realized. It’s probably why I didn’t hesitate to use John Constantine in my opening quote below. There’s something beyond our comprehension in art that sparks the wonder that amazes the human brain. Finding and preserving that experience is part of what motivates me in my daily work.

So read on below and hopefully enjoy one of my earliest essays that steered me towards my first passion of librarianship.

“One thing I’ve learned. You can know anything. It’s all there. You just have to find it.”
John Constantine, in SANDMAN #3: “Dream a Little Dream of Me

From the beginning, my thoughts on archival study and librarianship were tied with the needs of both knowing and preserving. As a child, I had been enamored of the adventures and mysteries of history. Learning to unlock secrets of the past, the feel of something old, traveling through places I could never go, somehow traveling through time and correlating experiences with the past had all been wonders to me. Now, as an adult, I find myself pursuing an extension of that youthful bewilderment and want. I have come to believe Constantine’s quote of being able to know anything because the answers to the glamours of history are all somewhere out there, waiting to be found. The unwrapping of the past and the thrill of discovery have been strong attractions to my curious mind. I found that in my first two semesters in the SILS program at Pratt, I have been able to learn the new and various ways in which to access this knowledge, these secrets. With formal education came a need to further my opportunities with exposure to great minds. I wanted to learn more and to know that that information would last through the future, that there was not a time limit on intellectual value.

To me, nothing could have grounded this need for exploring and preserving more than the passing of my mother last summer. Previously, it had not truly struck me just how much I would come to treasure not only the memories of our life together, but also the physical remnants of everything that I had shared with her. Unfortunately, there is very little of the physical left to remind me of her greatness, perhaps a necklace or other such jewelry, some photos, and myself – the most physical thing I have remaining to remember her by.

Instead of allowing the sense of loss to sadden me, I found a way to foster this need to remember and preserve. I found the key through educating myself and others. It wasn’t long after my enrollment at Pratt Institute that I came to understand the truth of my goal of gaining a Master’s degree. I wanted, and still want, to preserve information and help to disseminate its distilled knowledge to others. It has become a desire to both educate and inform the community of the importance of knowledge and its preservation.

I’ve found that almost all people innately collect. But why? Is it an effort to remember; to retell or to learn? What becomes so special about preserving the past? The value is subjective. It lies in the experience and knowledge gained through the act of preservation. By preserving and caring about our past, we gain insights into how to care for our future. We learn to be advocates of enduring values, both physical and intellectual. It is my hope that, by the end of this program, I will have the skills necessary to aid in the preservation of history, and show people that they can know anything, that they just need to search hard enough and experience the joy of discovery.

Needless to say, I became a recipient of the Archives Certificate program grant at Pratt and had the wonderful opportunity of working with the Othmer Library’s archival materials (see pictures above) housed within the Brooklyn Historical Society building in Brooklyn Heights. It was really an influential time in my budding career and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

And for those interested, here’s the link to the finding aid I helped revised during my work at The Brooklyn Historical Society:

Popular Culture Conference, April 1-4 2015

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My colleague Angela Washington and I presented at this year’s Popular Culture Association (PCA) Conference in New Orleans. This presentation was more aligned to my first love– art librarianship and not to metal music, though I did attend a metal panel at this conference.

Sailor Moon manga - MMA Dark Kingdom-2We presented our paper entitled, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library” under the Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Research panel. We decided to present on how we started the graphic novel collection at the Met’s Nolan Library when I was working there back in 2010. It was right before we hired the current Public Services Librarian who is now conducting the teen and children’s programming. We were first up on our panel and got to meet and see wonderful presentations from the head bibliographer at Tulane and librarians from  both San Diego State University and Florida International University. Overall, our presentation went very well and Angela did a great job at explaining the Watson and Nolan’s collection policy and its unique nuances involved with selecting, purchasing, processing and programming at the libraries.

Below was our panel line-up:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library The libraries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are home to over 900,000 books and periodicals… Angela Washington

Joan Jocson-Singh

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Paper
Poodle with a mohawk: Collecting cat and dog comics in an academic rare books department In New Orleans, with its wealth of distinctive popular culture associations, it may not surprise… Joshua Lupkin Tulane University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Paper
NSFW: Sexually Explicit Comics in Academic Libraries Sexually explicit topics have been safely explored in the academic bubble for decades. However,… Anna Culbertson San Diego State University Paper
Doujinshi and Libraries Doujinshi are Japanese publications, usually created by amateurs and fans, though occasionally… George Pearson Florida International University Paper

Of course, I was most excited to attend the Music (metal) panel because of the papers presented (see below). A highlight for me was hearing Victoria Willis’s presentation on The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video, because of her theoretical framework and it’s relation to feminism.

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Sunn O))) – A Camp Dimension? In a video posted to YouTube, the drone metal band Sunn O))) can be seen performing an… Albert Diaz UCLA Paper
“Rime of a Metal Mariner” “Rime of a Metal Mariner” looks at Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as an adaptation… Justin J. Roberts University of Kentucky Paper
The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video In this paper, I examine the role of twerking in Mastodon’s recent video for “The Motherload.”… Victoria Willis Georgia State University Paper
Hype, Visual Personae, and “Real” Music: The Example of Lana del Rey Before Lana del Rey’s first album, ‘Born to Die,’ hit the stores, she was an internet sensation… Mark Allister St. Olaf College Paper

And the panel on Music (Gender) was too great to pass up:

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin Sasha T. Strelitz: “Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin”

Many…

Sasha Strelitz University of Central Florida Paper
“Bootylicious” with “Love on Top”: Female Empowerment and Performing Sexual Agency at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show In the middle of an exclusively masculine contest of muscle and strategy between the Baltimore… Claire Anderson University of Washington Paper
“Papa, you ain’t got no mama now”: Analyzing Female Agency in Race Record Ads When it comes to analyzing and understanding blues music, many researchers have turned to the… Catherine Gooch University of Kentucky Paper
“What a Great Song…Except for the Lyrics!: Examining Rape Culture in Popular Music”

In this paper, I explore the cultural and social landscape that popularizes music that…

Melinda Mills Castleton State College Paper

I’ve been telling folks for years that the Popular Culture Association is the most interesting academic conferences I’ve been to. Because it deals with popular culture, it really spans disciplines and is one of the more affordable conferences to attend if you’re not a member. You can present as an independent scholar which is also nice. I had a great time meeting other academics and really enjoyed learning about the varied research that’s going on all of the states.

Next year’s conference will be in Seattle – so I’m really looking forward to that.

A Need for a Metal Music & Special Collection’s Library in NYC

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I’ve decided to add the task of starting a Metal Music Library to my list of life goals. As a side effect of all the research I’ve done, nothing feels more professionally fulfilling to me than merging my two loves at the moment – metal and librarianship. Living in New York, it just seems so senseless to me that there isn’t already a physical manifestation of some sort of metal library and collection here. I guess I’m finding it hard to stomach because New York’s history is rich with metal culture and ephemera. We are the birthplace of some of metal’s most notable bands like Anthrax, Dio, Kiss, Life of Agony, Manowar, Nuclear Assault, Tombs, Type O-, etc., Not to mention more extreme metal bands like Brutal Truth, Cannibal Corpse, Demolition Hammer, Immolation, Internal Bleeding, Malignancy. Mortician, Suffocation and on and on. Some of these have spearheaded entire sub-genres of metal.

When I worked at the Met, the Costume Institute Department had a number of music-related exhibitions like, Punk: Chaos to Culture, AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, and Rock Style. I can easily see these kinds of exhibitions displaying the material culture of heavy metal, perhaps record collections, even the fashion, which believe it or not, there is. Just take a look at how the latest Kardarshian brood is co-opting our style.

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Or just celebrities in general:

And I’m not posting these images to make metal-heads angry; on the contrary, it’s says a lot about mainstream culture appropriating and encouraging a heavy metal style, even if its a misinterpretation. Is heavy metal music becoming more acceptable, and if so, why? How are perceptions changing and what is the historical importance? Preserving aspects of “our” popular culture and subcultures are important for a variety of reasons.

Take a look at fellow WordPress blogger and musician/scholar Jason Netherton’s book, “Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground” in which he collects an oral history of death metal music from the musicians and people involved in the early scene. Additionally, he’s been scanning and making available early death metal zines from the 1980’s and on, in his blog Send Back My Stamps! – talk about preservation and accessibility!

As I research and work alongside my metal academic comrades, I see further evidence of the need for preserving metal music and it’s material culture. My colleague and fellow librarian, Brian Hickam, maintains a wonderful online bibliography for the International Society of Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) with categories for searching via books, articles, chapters, etc. It’s been very helpful in my own studies.

There are other institutions such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, which, of course, collect under rock-and-roll, but also includes a variety of subgenres, metal being one of them.

Over in the UK, there is The Home of Metal, a project started as collaboration project with the Black Country Arts Partnership, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery to celebrate and preserve the birthplace of heavy metal in the West Midlands.

Gary Shafer, the man behind Heavy Metal Museum, is also catering to heavy metal preservation and offering a platform for sharing and selling metal memorabilia. And if I couldn’t push the case for Metal Music studies and libraries being important, this article from the Wall Street Journal does the job for me.

In my own home library, here’s what I’ve been collecting and hoping to preserve for my daughter…(it’s very much a growing collection)

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Engaging in the field of Library Politics

I’m a frequent visitor of LisJobs since it pertains to my chosen career industry and I’ve become a fan of their section titled, “Career Q & A with The Library People”; it’s where they answer questions from librarians, librarians to be, and curious bookworms.

Today, I read about a question that was very similar to what I’ve recently been through in the my previous post of  “When Work isn’t Working“. Here’s the Library People’s answer to my same dilemma.

I especially liked the part that read:

“In my experience, it has always been my immediate boss who lobbied for me and procured my raises and promotions, which makes sense because he knew my work better than the director. Since your boss is supportive of you, I would try to engage her help as much as possible. Her words and opinion will mean a lot to her superiors and she should be involved in your discussion with them, if possible. If you do not have much contact with the head of the library, she may not be aware of everything that you have accomplished while working there or of your desire to move into a professional position. However, she cannot be surprised, considering you recently completed your MLS. In fact, I am a little surprised that your employers did not approach you after you finished the degree to discuss your future in the library. This could be a sign that you have a losing battle on your hands.”

Again, like in my previous post, it’s sad that our profession doesn’t seem to advocate for its degree holders as strongly as they should. It makes being taken seriously as organization and industry difficult. I know that both public and college libraries have more of a pull than special libraries and I’m not sure if that’s because special libraries have yet to adopt the same standards as those types of institutions. Unfortunately until the special art library field catches on, I’ll be navigating the seas on my own.