Another whirlwind trip to Europe has begun. First stop, the Klaus Kuhnke Archiv fur Populare Musik in Bremen, Germany.
The archive is housed in the Hochschule fur Kunste and strains of jazz and classical music from students practicing elsewhere in the building bleeds through the archive's walls. The office space is similar to those of other archives I have visited. One wall is lined with books on all sorts of popular music genres, another wall contains CDs that are in the process of being catalogued. In addition to the four computer terminals for archive staff there is a small communal table. All in all, a cosy workspace completed by the all important coffee machine.
Security is tight, and there is a shop-grade anti-theft measure in place at the door to stop visitors leaving with items from the collection. This is a reference archive with regular opening hours and the public are welcome to visit and explore the vast collection that is accessed via a narrow spiral staircase that leads down to the basement. The basement is a large space but is now bursting at the seams with what is a well organized collection of vinyl, CDs, books, magazines and related materials --- space is certainly an issue that is becoming increasingly pressing.
The archive's director, Ulrich Duve, gave me a guided tour and demonstrated the wide range of materials to be found here. Some of the "pearls" of the collection, as Ulrich described them, include copies of rare fanzines that are unlikely to exist elsewhere. Exciting recent acquisitions include a large collection of world popular music including vinyl from Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. There are a number of listening stations in the basement and a TV for visitors to view the DVD and VHS collection.
The Klaus Kuhnke Archiv welcomes donations of material. Duplicate copies of vinyl are sold by the archive on e-bay to fund part-time staff who catalogue the collection. Cataloguing is a never-ending process as new material comes in regularly. In addition to Ulrich, who is the only full-time staff member, there are a couple of part-time workers (including Till Neurath who I also interviewed), an intern (who is a student from the Hochschule fur Kunste) and a volunteer who has been involved with the archive for a few years now. Cataloguing material is the key task for everyone at the archive and the extensive database that can be searched online is one they are very proud of.
If you are ever in Bremen, this archive is most certainly worth a visit.