Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was born in Boston but spent most of his life in Baltimore. It’s the city where he married Virginia Clemm and wrote much of his poetry as well as prose and literary criticism. He died there too, at the age of 40. His cause of death is still a mystery.
The UArts School Store’s “Undefeated Since 1876” football t-shirt is a perennial best-seller, and it turns out that there’s some truth to the joke.
An item in a Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art (today’s UArts College of Art, Media and Design) student publication from 1936 is entitled “P.M.S.I.A. Blanks Academy 18-0“, and dramatically (and tongue in cheek) recounts the football game incidents on and off the field. The Academy mentioned is the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Further proof of the athletic prowess of our students appears in a 1964 yearbook for the Philadelphia Musical Academy (PMA), today’s UArts School of Music. PMA played the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (yet another name change, but still today’s UArts College of Art, Media & Design) twice, with both games ended in a tie (12-12 and 2-2). The PMA students did beat the art students in a basketball game (score: 72-65), but now that we’re all one institution we can honestly say that (as far as we know!) we remain undefeated since 1876.
The Farber Gravestone Collection is a terrific collection documenting over 9,000 gravestones – over 13,000 photographs! Most of the photographs were compiled by Daniel Farber and his wife, Jessie Lie Farber, the collection is now sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society.
These gravestones largely pre-date 1800 and are very important not only as biographical records, but as a historical view of sculpture and design. Each photograph includes the name and death date as listed on the gravestone, the location of the stone (many are in the northeast United States), and data on the stone material, iconography, and additional inscriptions. If the carver is know, that too is listed.
A little over a hundred years ago, Enrico Caruso recorded his legendary tenor voice onto a wax disc for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company in Milan, helping to launch an industry that for the next eighty years was dominated by one medium: the phonodisc record. In the 1980s, the compact disc replaced the long-playing vinyl record (LP) in favor of what some consider to be a cleaner sound, supposedly longer shelf-life, and undoubtedly greater storage convenience.Today, compact discs are facing a similar fate, thanks to the development of digital ways to store recorded media.Today’s iPods can accommodate thousands of hours of recorded music, and it is difficult to dispute the convenience of such an amount of music stored in such a small device, versus the shelf-space the same amount of music would consume in its forerunners’ form.
That said, an immense amount of recorded music has not yet made the transfer into the digital world and survives almost solely in its immediate predecessor’s format, twelve inches tall, fractions of an inch thick, and considerably susceptible to scratches and deterioration.Since the record was the dominant medium for so long, the Music Library retains a highly selective, large collection of recordings over the course of time, and until last November, most of it remained idle.
In recent years, the Music Library has undertaken the painstaking process of weeding out duplicate and damaged items, and then manually cataloging each of the remaining 9,095 LPs in order to make them searchable in the library’s online catalog.This effort has involved several staff members, as well as student assistants, whose persistence has made the contents of our collection of LPs readily available.Many of these performances are historically significant, and provide layers of interpretive context for repertories both standard and “off the beaten track.”Furthermore, many LPs provide extensive recording documentation and performance notes that are unavailable elsewhere, even for those select recordings that have been chosen for digital re-issue.
One of our music students, Robyn Muse has discovered the library’s collection and prefers it to compact discs owing to the expansive selection of works and performances.She also finds the comprehensive program notes that accompany phonodiscs to be useful. “It helps to be able to understand what you’re listening to,” she explains.
Aside from rarity and historical significance, there is still an appeal when it comes to long-playing records. Particular groups of audiophiles claim that analog phonodisc recordings produce a different “depth” or “warmth” of sound that the digital media do not reproduce.Our student Robyn finds that compact discs sound “flat” compared to the “more real” sound of LPs.“It’s a more true representation of the artist,” she says, referring to the quality of sound on phonodiscs. “You can hear the colors better.” Sampling this experience for oneself is fairly easy.The Music Library makes available several record players in its listening area.The recordings are easily searched, and appear alongside compact disc recordings in the online catalog.
In the long run, the greatest challenge that LP-lovers face is preservation.While the digital medium is by no means permanent, its shelf-life is predicted to surpass that of its vinyl predecessor.The Music Library hopes to one day secure the funding to successfully archive all of its LP records digitally, further preserving the timeless nature of the recorded performances.Until then, feel welcome to take advantage of this vast treasure of unique recordings and get to know the medium that represented the recording industry for more than eighty years.
Just around the corner from UArts, at 1314 Locust Street (between Broad and 13th), is a Philadelphia treasure, the Library Company of Philadelphia. A feature article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer highlights the Library Company’s outstanding collection of African American history.
Originally a private membership library founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is now free and open to the public and runs exhibitions and other public events. Check out their collections, and browse through ImPAC, their digital collections catalog.
Right next door to the Library Company is another outstanding research facility, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. If you’re ever doing research on Philadelphia, find out what these stellar libraries may have to offer.