Saturday, 12 October 2013

Fieldwork at the Victorian Jazz Archive

I’ve been in Melbourne this past fortnight for a stint of fieldwork at the Victorian Jazz Archive. I first visited the archive in June 2012 as part of the Popular Music and Cultural Memory project, so it has been great to be back amongst the volunteers and see what changes have occurred over the last year and a bit.

On my first day back I was warmly welcomed --- returning to the archive is like returning home! In addition to observations, this period of fieldwork has seen me interview 13 volunteers – a number of these being fairly new arrivals who come to the archive via a Centrelink scheme in which 30 hours a fortnight of volunteering is required in order to receive the Newstart Allowance (55+). Many of these volunteers do not have a background in jazz but do bring a variety of other organisational skills to their work in the archive.

Memorable is the baking of volunteer Maria Matser who brought in the most scrumptious sticky date cake and cheese scones as part of the catering for a tour group in the first week of my visit. The tour group, a senior citizens choir, were entertained by a duo called Blue Tango and they were also given a tour of the archive before having a light lunch. I attended two similar events in my second week which the archive put on as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival.

I took a lot of photos this trip but one of my favourites is this image of the hands of volunteers Ric Church and Jim Lightwood. 

Ric and Jim can regularly be found at the big wooden desk in the Jilly Ward Member Borrowing Library. Seated facing the bookshelves, the table is an organised mess of photos and newspaper clippings. These volunteers, part of the collections team, give the donated materials order, and are here shown transferring photographs from a donated album into archival standard sleeves. The annotations that accompanied many of the photos in the album were carefully transcribed by Jim onto archival standard copy paper. The images in the album pictured here were predominantly related to Australian jazz, including the Monash Jazz Band and a series of photographs from a jazz festival in Halls Gap, but international musicians also appeared, such as clarinettist Sammy Rimmington. Ric and Jim have a wonderful rapport and were an absolute delight to interview.

I look forward to making a return visit to the VJA in 2014.