The Institute of Jazz Studies, a research branch of the John Cotton Dana Library of the Rutgers University Libraries, has completed a program to preserve and make accessible its collection of recorded oral history interviews from the Jazz Oral History Project (JOHP), the most comprehensive and widely consulted body of jazz oral histories in the United States. This collection of tapes consists of 120 oral histories of seminal pre-Swing Era and Swing Era jazz musicians recorded between 1972 and 1983. The JOHP was initiated in 1972 by the Jazz Advisory Panel of the Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. Musicians sixty years and older (as well as several younger artists in poor health) were interviewed in depth about their lives and careers. The taped interviews range in length from 5 to 35 hours each and are accompanied by typewritten transcripts. They have been consulted by hundreds of scholars and writers producing articles, books and dissertations, in addition to frequent use by producers of radio and television.
The project was initially administered by the New York - based non-profit service organization Jazz Interactions, and then by the Smithsonian's newly-established jazz program. Administration and archiving of JOHP was turned over to the Institute of Jazz Studies in 1979. The Institute conducted further interviews as well as editing and correcting transcripts of prior interviews.
Included in the Jazz Oral History Project are such luminaries as Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams and Charles Mingus, but also many significant if lesser-known figures who shed light on important aspects of jazz history and American culture. The stories and voices of many of these artists, who offer unique insights into the music and careers of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and other key jazz creators, are undocumented anywhere else.
The condition of the original reel-to-reel and cassette tapes and some of the service copies had deteriorated to the point where the Institute could no longer offer access to large parts of the collection. With recent funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, all 120 interviews have now been preserved in digital format. The digital versions of the interviews are currently stored in various media forms, including multiple sets of CD's for archival purposes as well as for client access at the Institute. The digital versions of the interviews are also being ingested into a new digital library repository (RUCORE) under development as part of the Rutgers University Libraries new digital library initiative, which will provide another form of archiving as well as enhanced means for access by users.
Click here for a complete listing of Jazz Oral History Project interviews on file at the Institute of Jazz Studies.
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Institute of Jazz Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
John Cotton Dana Library
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Newark NJ USA 07102
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