The Historical Recordings Project

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The Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford recently received a donation of an extensive collection of pre-1920 audio recordings and equipment. The collection provides an astonishing audio portrait of the United States one hundred years ago. The goal of this project is to make these materials widely available for educational purposes. The collection is housed at CCRMA.

The collection includes over 1500 pre-1920 cylinder recordings, cylinder players and supporting peripheral equipment and materials. The recordings include classical, popular, folk, spiritual and march music, Vaudeville routines and speeches.

Supported by funds from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, we are currently in the process of digitizing, cataloging and documenting each recording.

The actual collection can be used as teaching and research materials for classes and individual research at Stanford. The seeds of this project were sown as part of a freshman seminar on Technology and the Arts. The materials are currently being cataloged, researched and transferred by graduate and undergraduate research associates with the goal of making the collection available to all. The cylinders and players are available by arrangement for student, faculty and community use. Student projects using these materials include:

  • historical studies of popular American culture, 
  • historical research on the music and recording industries, 
  • the evolution of popular music, 
  • the history of popular dance
  • engineering and scientific research on techniques of audio restoration, preservation and archiving.


As the cataloging and research efforts are primarily student projects this on-line museum of historical recordings will be continually developing.