FOR DECADES, THE BASEMENT OF the Boston Public Library was hiding something pretty amazing. A collection of nearly 200,000 rarely heard, unseen-by-the-public vinyl LPs and shellac 78s were tucked away in storage in the library’s central branch. Now, through a partnership with the digital library Internet Archive, these records are about to get a second life.
The initiative will digitize all 200,000 pieces of the BPL’s collection and make them publicly available, as rights allow, for the first time in a very long time. First up are the library’s collection of 78s. These records, which date from about 1898 to the 1950s, will be digitized as part of the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project, an initiative to digitize, preserve, and study these rare records. “These 78s are disappearing right and left. It is important that we do a good job preserving what we can get to, because there won’t be a second chance,” said George Blood, an audio preservationist working on the project, in a press release announcing the digitization.