On April 9, I was thrilled to attend the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s new Library and Archives in Cleveland. Many years in the making, the Rock Hall has opened a truly world class (I know it sounds crazy) study center dedicated to Rock and Roll. The opening featured a panel discussion with academics (and the great Lenny Kaye), as well as a gala party. But the highlight for me was touring this state-of-the-art facility.
The 22,500 square foot library and archives shares a brand new building with the Cuyahoga Community College’s Center for Creative Arts in downtown Cleveland, two miles from the main Hall of Fame building. The archive hosts a vast collection of books, periodicals, audio and video recordings, and important archival collections (including the personal papers) of some of popular music’s most important figures, including pioneering DJ Alan Freed, Atlantic Records founders Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, Commodore Records’ Milt Gabler, Warner Bros. Records longtime chairman Mo Ostin and former Warners and Capitol head Joe Smith.
In 1992, I donated my Jimi Hendrix collection, at that time perhaps the largest in the world, to the Hall of Fame. My younger daughter was about to be born, and the collection filled much of what was to become her room–so I sent 26 boxes of Jimi records and memorabilia to Cleveland (it was their first donation.) The Hall of Fame building wouldn’t open for another 3 years, but I’d attended the induction dinners since 1986 and knew it was going to happen. Since then, I’ve donated thousands of items to the Rock Hall, and have worked with them to help further their mission to document, preserve and exhibit the history of popular music.
It was wonderful to see the library and archives open for business–and an emotional experience to see my Hendrix collection for the first time in 20 years. As I explained to the staff, collecting was a far different enterprise in the pre-internet era. You wrote letters to people who answered your classified ads in Melody Maker or The Rock Marketplace, posted “wanted” note cards on bulletin boards in record stores, prowled thrift shops, swap meets, flea markets, junk stores…anywhere where you might get your fix. It was hard work. And so it was great so see those old vinyl friends again, and know they were someplace they’d be well cared for–and available for future generations.
The library and archive is open to the public, though some of the collection is accessible only to qualified researchers, scholars and students, by appointment. The library and archives website has a searchable database and overviews of their archival collections. Congratulations to director Andy Leach and his team; though they’ve just opened, the library and archives is already an invaluable resource.
And it goes without saying–but I’ll say it anyway–if you’re anywhere near Cleveland, by all means, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum too. They have just completed a redesign and it has never looked better. Literally thousands of the most unusual and extraordinary music artifacts you’ll ever see — John Lennon’s Sgt. Peppers suit, Hendrix’s Stratocaster, Otis Redding handwritten lyrics, Elvis’s car, Mick Jagger’s stage outfits, The Doors instruments…it just goes on and on. And they’ve just opened a superb new Grateful Dead exhibit (put together by their curatorial director, Howard Kramer.) For music obsessives like myself, a trip to Cleveland is a must.
Jeff Gold 5/6/12