Libraries awarded GRAMMY grant to preserve Latin culture

1917 Edison recording

1917 Edison recording

If CDs and audiotapes are practically extinct, what happens to even older forms of music storage?

At FIU, they’re preserved for generations to come, thanks to the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation Grant recently awarded to the FIU Libraries Sound & Image Department. Currently in its second year, the Preservation Grant was developed to support efforts to advance the archiving and preservation of Latin music.

The project – titled “Preserving Rare Latin 78rpm Recordings from 1900 to 1929″ and presented by sound and image librarian Veronica Gonzalez – will preserve valuable examples of Latin American heritage from various countries through the digitization of rare 78rpm sound recordings from 1900–1929, currently at the university’s library as part of the Diaz-Ayala Collection. These musical styles include, but are not limited to, danzón, bolero, tango, cueca, rumba, foxtrot, son, aguinaldo and guaracha.

The grant, according to Gonzalez, is great because it signifies that “important institutions are interested in keeping our cultural roots alive.”

Many of the recordings in question are considered rare and valuable, as they are no longer commercially available and with only a limited number existing in private hands and academic institutions, but due to their physical construction suffer from an increasing risk of damage. Preservation is thus important, not only for current research, but for future generations of scholars.

And it’s not just the academic community who will benefit. This collection will allow the FIU Libraries to reconstruct the past of Latin America and the Caribbean area and contribute to a deeper understanding of the region’s social, cultural, economic and political history during the early 20th century.

The huge concentration of Latin American descendants in South Florida, says Gonzalez, means there are “hundreds of individuals who will now have access to unique aspects of their culture they otherwise might not have been able to experience.”