Judaica Sound Archives Scholar’s Research Station

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Digital Project Demonstration by Maxine Schackman (Florida Atlantic University)

The primary mission of the Judaica Sound Archives at FAU Libraries is to collect, preserve, and digitize Judaica sound recordings; to create educational programs highlighting the contents of this rich cultural legacy; and to encourage the use of this unique scholarly resource by students, scholars and the general public.

Notes on the Judaica Sound Archives demonstration at the Center for Jewish History’s “From Access to Integration” conference:

The FAU Judaica Sound Archives—which specializes in 78 RPMs and Yiddish materials—built its mission around this question: How could a vast collection of digital information be made available to teachers, students, scholars and researchers all around the world, consistent with copyright law?

Part of the Judaica Sound Archives online is made available to the public. It’s searchable by metadata, and anyone can access the records and information. But the Archives have also digitized a much larger collection of material that is still on copyright—and making this material legally available to scholars and researchers posed a challenge. 

The Scholar’s Research Station is the Archives’ answer to this challenge. In order to use the Scholar’s workstation, you must come through a recognized organization and have a scholarly purpose. Then you can access some 8,078 RPM items, 24,663 LP songs and 7,368 LP albums—all searchable by the title of the song, the name of the performer or the genre. When you arrive at the recording you want, you can see a scan of the original label and view additional information about the item.

Of course, there are more persistent challenges specific to doing work with Judaica materials—for example, the inconsistent ways that Yiddish and even Hebrew words are sometimes transliterated into the English alphabet. In order to compensate for the fact that you can have a myriad of different spellings for the same word, the Judaica Sound Archives uses a “sounds like” option. If you type in something like “eelee eelee,” for instance, you will arrive at the many different recordings of the song “Eili, Eili” that you are looking for.

The Judaica Sound Archives make available recordings that were created during the heyday of Yiddish culture in NYC and in other areas of the country. This material has nostalgic value for people who remember it from their earlier lives. But the Archives also present an opportunity for people who have never heard this music before to listen to it for the first time—and this is at the core of the Archives’ mission.

The Judaica Sound Archives also store and preserve original recordings. Technology is constantly changing; there are many examples of obsolete equipment. In the future, it might be difficult to recreate things in digital formats. With the original materials, there is always an original source to which archivists will be able to return. 

Click here to visit the Judaica Sound Archives.

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