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MMD > Archives > May 2007 > 2007.05.26 > 05Prev  Next

Preserving Original Literature
By Matthew Caulfield

I strongly second Kevin McElhone's plea to preserve original literature.
Take appropriate steps now.  Don't leave it to your heirs to decide what
is worth keeping.  They probably don't know.

One of the best methods of preservation is duplication and distribution.
Be generous with requests for information.  I heard that a now-deceased
collector in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, had some original band organ rolls
that he would not share "because he wanted to own something unique."
A lot of good that sentiment does him today, and whatever it was he had
is probably lost.

Collector Richard J. Howe used to run a classified ad in every issue of
the MBSI "News Bulletin" offering to buy collectible paper of any kind.
He amassed a treasure trove of piano and mechanical music literature.
Eventually his thoughts turned to the proper institution to donate them
to in order to ensure their preservation and use.  He rejected the
Library of Congress as a recipient on the basis that his collection,
large as it was, would still be lost in the vastness of that library's
holdings.  Dick finally chose the International Piano Archives at
Maryland as being a focussed organization of the right size to do justice
to his gift.

Would that the officials of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company had exercised
half so much prudence to preserve that company's historical records.
Much of what we know today is not due to anything the company did, but
to Q. David Bowers' friendship with Farny Wurlitzer and Dave's interest
in the company.  The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of
American History now has possession of the Wurlitzer "archives."

But as archives go, they are pretty sad.  Whoever was responsible for
the "save or toss" decision at the end of the company's life must have
had a strange sense of the historically important.  I'm sure that many
Wurlitzer researchers are glad today to see the actual blueprints of
the Wurlitzer sewer and sprinkler system or to hold in their hands a
genuine copy of the "Wurlitzer Centennial Cookbook."  A packet of
photographs labeled "Factory Tour" shows some unidentified celebrities
posing at various unidentified workstations around the plant at some
unknown period in the jukebox era.  What a disappointment.  If only
Dave Bowers had been brought in to select the material to be archived!

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York

(Message sent Sat 26 May 2007, 13:51:54 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Literature, Original, Preserving

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