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ARChive Of Contemporary Music Still Seeks Permanent Home

Learn the Institution's History and How to Support It

In its 39th year of operation, the unique non-profit, ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC), is at a critical juncture. Grappling with an uncertain future without a permanent physical location, they are urgently seeking support. Renowned as the world's largest popular music collection, ARC has played a vital role in preserving the rich tapestry of musical history and physical media.

When the ARC was located in New York City, I had the fortune of attending many of their overflow sales, featuring items that were duplicates to their collection. I still remember the thrill of picking up many discs that I still treasure in my collection today. The vibe of the sales was also a strange but alluring hybrid of record store/show, museum and library sale. Record collectors from the five boroughs - and beyond - gathered to find many fairly priced records which made the impossible Lower Manhattan parking task very worth it. Below is a picture I took prior to entering a sale many years ago, probably 2015.

The ARC's Iconic Sign as it Appeared in Lower Manhattan
The ARC' Iconic Sign as it Appeared in Lower Manhattan

For nearly three years, ARC's extensive collection has found a secure haven thanks to the generous donation of facilities by André Balazs. Despite continued efforts in collecting and cataloging, the institution faces challenges due to strict zoning laws, hindering both expansion and public access. The stakes are high, with over three million recordings and countless historical materials from diverse cultures teetering on the brink of potential disappearance.

A ray of hope shines through a recent anonymous donation of $1,000,000 (not from me) which is earmarked to facilitate the relocation of ARC's vast collection from its current Hudson Valley, NY space. However, more support is urgently needed to ensure the preservation of these musical vinyl treasures.

Key collections, such as Keith Richards’ Blues Collection and the Zero Freitas Brazilian Music Collection, are among those at risk. The Jeep Holland Collection, boasting over 125,000 classic rock and pop recordings, and the Jonathan Demme Haitian Music Collection are also under threat. Notable figures like John Rockwell, Jerry Bock, David Byrne, and Jon Pareles have entrusted ARC to safeguard their recordings, books, and papers.

ARC Founder B. George and a Small Part of the Archive
ARC Founder B. George and a Small Part of the Archive

With its eyes on the future, ARC is actively searching for a new, permanent home, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the institution. Initial donations serve as the cornerstone for constructing a new facility that envisions broader accessibility to the world's musical heritage for students, educators, historians, musicians, authors, journalists, and the general public.

Crucial funding is sought not only for the preservation of the archives and collections but also to fuel the expansion of educational programs, community gatherings, and listening events. The ultimate aspiration is to transform ARC from a mere archive into a dynamic public institution, giving rise to The Center for Popular Music in New York.

The current board of advisors reads like a who's who in the music industry, including Jellybean Benitez, Youssou N’Dour, Q-Tip, Keith Richards, Nile Rodgers, Todd Rundgren, Fred Schneider, Martin Scorsese, Paul Simon, and Mike Stoller. An emeritus board (featuring former board members) features luminaries like David Bowie, Jonathan Demme, Lou Reed, and Jerry Wexler, further underscores the cultural significance and support behind ARC.

A Part of Keith Richards' Blues Collection on Vinyl
A Part of Keith Richards' Blues Collection

Founded in 1985 by current director B. George and the late David Wheeler, the ARChive of Contemporary Music stands as a testament to its mission of reversing the neglect of the recording industry's heritage. As the collection grows daily, ARC remains a beacon for record companies, publishers, distributors, collectors, artists, and music fans, encouraging ongoing donations to preserve the ever-evolving legacy of contemporary music.

To learn more about the ARChive of Contemporary Music - and to explore ways in which you can help them in their journey - simply click here.


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