Exploring the ARC

The first thing you notice upon entering the ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) is the smell—that familiar, sweet, musty smell of aging LP sleeves. An aphrodisiac for collectors like me, and a scent that suggests somewhere in this ridiculously large collection lives every single record on my want list. You wonder what kind of support structure is needed to keep the building from sinking (you’d be surprised how many homes of record collectors have that very problem). Music ephemera of all sorts—an Alan Freed bag, snappy LP sleeves, sheet music, an original copy of Alan Betrock’s Girl Groups discography (!!!!)—are thumb-tacked to the walls, and every inch of free space is occupied by vinyl LPs, 45s, DVDs, CDs, music books, and boxes of new arrivals. You could spend hours just staring. 

It’s a lofty goal—tracking down every single piece of popular music released since 1950, but the ARChive’s co-founder Bob George began with his own personal collection of 47,000 recordings and has since grown the ARChive into the largest collection of recorded music in the world. Considering the countless libraries worldwide dedicated to the preservation of the written word, it’s surprising that recorded music hasn’t been given similar treatment. Bob George is clearly ahead of his time.

The staff (including brrrrrrilliant DJ + collector Phast Phreddie) at ARC’s headquarters in TriBeCa, New York work daily to ensure a regular inflow of donations and an updated inventory of the archive’s two million-plus stock. Its board members include Keith Richards, David Bowie, Martin Scorsese, Todd Rundgren, Nile Rogers, and Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. Fred regularly donates bits and pieces of his multi-genre vinyl collection, and yesterday Eilon Paz (from vinyl photography site, Dust & Grooves) and I met Fred at the ARC for an interview and photo shoot.

Fred arrived with a bag full of LPs (the full list will be posted along with his interview on Dust & Grooves) and posed with each record for the camera. I snuck in at the end of the shoot to grab a quick photo with Fred and his “Happy Hooker” LP. He’s been digging since the ’70s and he made sure we knew that this small pile wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg. When we asked if anyone has actually seen his record collection, he reminded us of an interview he did with New York magazine where he was photographed in front of his wall-to-wall shelves of records.

The ARChive opens its door to the public every December for their weeklong holiday record fair. This year it runs from December 7 – 15. Those who wish to further explore this music treasury are encouraged to become a “Friend of ARC” via various donation options, which will give you greater access to the archives and an invitation to the ARC’s  bi-annual cocktail parties.

Visit the ARC online here: http://www.arcmusic.org/begin.html


p.s. I just found an original copy of Alan Betrock’s “Girl Group Discography” on eBay. Huzzah!
p.p.s. Thanks to Eilon Paz for this shot of Fred Schneider, the Happy Hooker, and me!




8 Responses to Exploring the ARC

  1. b.George says:

    Hi Sheila – Thanks for dropping by the ARC and blog. As i gave away all my records, I had to collect something, so hava look at my French Girl Pulp Paperback Page and link to Rock Pulp. Yours, B.George

    • admin says:

      Oh my sweet lord—that is one beauty of a book collection! Right up my alley. I am VERY intrigued by that “Death Spins the Platter” book. Is it as fabulous as it looks? Thanks for having me at the holiday record fair pre-sale. VERY happy about my “Incredibly Strange Music” purchase. xo-Sheila

  2. Hey Sheila. Very cool look at the ARChive. I can’t seem to get that link to work for the New York Magazine?.. any help?

    • admin says:

      Hey Brad: My apologies for the late reply. I’ve just fixed the link. Thanks for letting me know about the error! xo-Sheila

  3. Hey Sheila.. Great article.. I can’t seem to get the Ney York Magazine link to work though.. 🙁

  4. Heather says:

    Hey Shiela,
    I forgot how I found your blog, but I’m super happy I did. I love it! Records, palm springs and some cat posts- you can’t beat that as far as I know.
    Totally enjoying it.


    • admin says:

      Records, Palm Springs, cats… yup, that pretty much sums it up! Thanks for letting me know you’re digging the blog : )

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