They won’t be cutting the ribbon until April, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Library and Archives collections, a project nearly as old as the shrine itself, opens its doors this week in Cleveland.
The four-story, 22,500-square-foot institute, which opens Tuesday (Jan. 17) with a formal grand opening celebration planned for April 9, is housed off-site from the actual museum, in the Center For Creative Arts building on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus. See photos from inside the new collection.
“Ever since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was conceived in the early ’80s, the Library and Archives was part of the original vision,” notes director Andy Leach, who joined the Rock Hall staff in 2009 from the Center For Black Music Research in Chicago. A space was designated for the collection in the original museum, but it quickly became clear that more space would be needed, and the Cuyahoga Community College — whose president, Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, sits on the Rock Hall board — offered space in the Center For Creative Arts, which was finished in 2010.
“We never would have had this kind of space at the museum,” Leach says. “This is a state of the art facility for what we do, with lots of storage space, new offices and plenty of room to grow.”
The Library and Archives’ collection is already substantial and is expanding by the day, in fact. Leach says his staff has so far cataloged about 5,500 items, including 3,500 books, 1,400 audio recordings and 270 DVDs. In the storage areas, meanwhile, are more than 10,000 books, thousands of periodicals — “Current as well as past and now out-of-print publications,” Leach says — “tens of thousands” of other audio recordings and thousands of additional video recordings. The facility will house video footage from events such as the Rock Hall induction ceremonies and the museum’s American Music Masters and Songwriters To Soundmen series.
There are also about 600 academic dissertations related to rock and popular music, songbooks and 270 collections from notable music figures such as recording company executives Ahmet Ertegun, Clive Davis, Mo Ostin, Joe Smith and Seymour Stein, musicians Jorma Kaukonen and Scotty Moore, producers Jerry Wexler and Milt Gabler, groundbreaking radio DJ Alan Freed and companies including Atlantic Records and Sire Records. The library will also house artifacts that are not on display at the museum, including at the moment Jimi Hendrix’s handwritten lyrics for “Purple Haze” and an early ’70s concert set list written by Elvis Presley himself. Onetime Rolling Stones Records chief Art Collins’ collection included a partly full vodka bottle (one can only imagine the DNA that can be scrapped off that), while another collection included marijuana leaves used as bookmarks — which the library staff has subsequently removed.
“Those can range from hundreds of boxes to one item,” Leach says. “It’s exciting that we’re finally going to open, but in no way at all can we just kick back and say it’s done. Most of the work we have to do is in front of us still — a lot more cataloging, a lot more archival processing, a lot more collecting and digitization and those kinds of things. And it’s always going to be that way. All libraries, they’re never finished.”
The Library and Archives first floor is open to the public, including a reading room and 11 multimedia work stations. The archival collections, meanwhile, have some public access but will be more limited and intended primarily for academic research. The facility also plans to hold its own conferences, symposiums and other events in conjunction with the museum and its education department, and to continue growing its collection of materials.
“We’re stepping up our efforts to get more collections from performers,” Leach says. “The museum will accept loaned materials, but it’s a little more of a commitment for the donor when it’s coming to (the library) because it’s permanent. Right now our big strength is collections from people in the music business. We hope that once we’re open, it will help. We can show (artists) coming through town what it means, how we use it, how we house it, how we preserves things. It will only grow and get better as time goes on.”
The Library and Archives’ cataloged materials can be viewed at http://library.rockhall.com.