Texas Digital Library Conference System, 2014 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

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Success and Growth: the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project
Timothy Logan

Last modified: 2014-03-14


Since its launch in 2006, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) at Baylor University has become a nationally recognized effort to catalog, capture and preserve materials from America’s “golden age” of black gospel music. Spurred by an impassioned New York Times op-ed written in 2005 by Baylor journalism professor Robert Darden, the BGMRP began with a lead gift from Charles Royce that provided for the purchase of equipment and the hiring of an audio engineer. What started with a small scanner in borrowed space has grown to an active center for digitization and preservation. Today, the gospel project’s team includes an audiovisual digitization specialist, a curator, an assistant director, and a number of graduate and undergraduate student workers. Their work focuses on the digitization of gospel recordings, regardless of the recording form from the original collections. The records are received, cleaned, cataloged, digitized, and returned to their owners, and other materials such as hymnbooks and sheet music are treated with equal care.

Working with major collectors across the country, the project has grown to include more than 2,200 digitized albums (78s, 45s, and 33s) whose digital objects are comprised of 8,196 images and 4,740 accessible audio tracks. The collection is open to the world via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu) and excerpts are available via the Baylor University iTunes U account.

The project has received extensive media coverage on outlets such as on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program, the Dallas Morning News and numerous print, broadcast and online news outlets. In 2012, Professor Darden and Tim Logan, Baylor Associate Vice President for Electronic Library, visited with a team from the Smithsonian Institution about including elements of the gospel collection in a new museum. In 2013, the leadership of the National Museum of African American Culture and Heritage – a division of the Smithsonian Institution – announced that materials from the BGMRP will be featured in the new museum’s permanent collection when it opens its doors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2015. This collaboration follows several years of conversations and ongoing discussions between Baylor and the Smithsonian and marks a major milestone in the ongoing story of this unique cultural heritage preservation undertaking. In addition to the inclusion in a major museum, the collection outreach includes hosting the Pruit Symposium on gospel music and connection with African American churches across the country, all of which demonstrate transformative ventures beyond traditional library contexts.

The proposed 24X7 presentation will provide a succinct overview of the origins, history, present activities, and future plans for the Black Gospel Music Restoration project.


digitization; gospel music; Smithsonian

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