Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection hosted by UCLA is an enormous resource for researchers interested in Mexican and Mexican-American recorded music.  The project is a joint effort sponsored by Los Tigres del Norte Fund, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, the Fund for Folk Culture, as well as support from the Arhoolie Foundation, NEH, NEA, Grammy 
Foundation, and even LucasFilm Foundation.  The point is, it has a lot of funding and is a very large project.  Initially, 30,000 recordings were made available (full access on UCLA campus, record images and samples available off campus).  The NEH grant allows for another 20,000 recordings to be made available, half of which are up already.  Overall, the entire collection contains over 130,000 individual recording son 78 rpm, 45 rpm, and 33 1/3 rpm discs.  

The site has some project information and The Arhoolie Foundation "Projects Funded" webpage hasa bit more about the Strachwitz Frontera Collection project.  The records date range is from 1905 to the 1990's.  As for copyright, the library offers to takedown materials at the request of owners.

Descriptive metadata is not as complete as one would hope.  Titles, subjects, record labels, etc. all appear in the full record, but dates do not on most records.  And sadly, for all the financial support, and for containing audio files in the collection, technical information is lacking.  Those of us interested in audio preservation are curious about what equipment and what standards were used to digitized the samples.  

The item records are fairly standard.  Images of both sides of the records are available.  Zoom options are great allowing for fine detail of the image of labels.  The audio samples are in Real Audio format, which makes them generally available to most Internet users.  Over all, this collection has a lot of potential.  As is, it is quite an interesting and wide-ranging collection.  But I cannot help but think much more background information or research into the recordings could be made available.

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