Monday, 3 August 2015

Abstract accepted for IASPM ANZ conference, December 2015

The 2015 conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Australia-New Zealand branch will be held this December at the School of Music, Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.  With the theme speaking to 'Popular Music, Stars and Stardom', the conference will be a wonderful opportunity to share with popular music studies colleagues some key findings that have emerged from the research.

The following paper has been accepted for inclusion in the conference programme:

Popular Music Heritage, Community Archives and the Challenge of Sustainability: Is popular music’s material past at risk?

Sarah Baker

This paper examines the challenges of sustainability faced by community archives that are concerned with the preservation and display of the material culture of popular music’s recent past. The sustainability of grassroots sites of popular music heritage is of great concern due to their role in making accessible artefacts that often have limited representation in the collections of more prestigious institutions. The limited resources (financial, human, physical, skills, expertise) that are available to community archives pose a challenge for their long-term futures. A case study of the British Archive of Country Music, a community archive at-risk of closure, highlights the difficulties faced by the founders and volunteers of community archives in sustaining their ‘do-it-yourself’ popular music heritage practices in the medium- to long-term. The fragility of these heritage institutions, as evidenced by the closure of other DIY institutions such as Jazz Museum Bix Eiben Hamburg, speaks to concerns raised by critics who believe that the collection and preservation of popular music’s material heritage is best undertaken by fully trained professionals in properly funded, authorised institutions. However, the significance and value of community archives goes beyond the artefacts being collected. At-risk in community archives of popular music heritage are not merely the artefacts relating to popular music’s material past but the very communities and the accumulated vernacular knowledges that sustains popular music archiving and related activities at the community level. Achieving medium- to long-term sustainability for community archives in ways that are positive, equitable and non-prescriptive will be important if there is to be a comprehensive record of popular music’s material past as it was lived and experienced.

Keywords: popular music; cultural heritage; community archives and museums; sustainability
The paper will draw on and extend some of the collaborative work I have been doing this year with Jez Collins from Birmingham City University, including the article we recently published in International Journal of Heritage Studies.