All Around Campus: Marr Sound Archives offer extensive collection, listening area at Miller-Nichols Library

Andreina Byrne

The Marr Sound Archives at Miller-Nichols Library are home to more than 300,000 sound recordings, including live concerts, rehearsals, jam sessions, oral histories, vintage commercials, radio broadcasts and jingles.

Thousands of individuals have donated memorabilia to the collection, including blues, country, jazz, classical, opera and popular music, as well as vintage radio broadcasts, authors and celebrated voices.

This extensive collection is highly regarded because it centers on recorded sound.

“At the Archives, we look at music in a cultural context,” said Marr Sound Archives director Chuck Haddix. “Music is a reflection of the society that produces it. So, if you look at the music of any given culture, it tells you a lot about that society.”

Haddix, director of the archives since their conception in 1987, said the collection has expanded with thousands of musical arrangements and countless photographs of legendary figures of the musical past.

“There have been a number of notable collections over the years, including Dave Dexter Jr.’s, Jay McShann’s, Claude “Fiddler” Williams’ and the Grand Emporium’s,” he said.

At first, according to Haddix, there was a room with nothing in it.

A movement was headed by Gaylord Marr, a past UMKC communication studies professor who specialized in the History of Media, to start the sound archives during the 1970s.

Marr had amassed about 34,000 sound recordings in his Hyde Park home and in an extra storage facility.

“He [Marr] had been negotiating with the library for a long time to establish the collection,” Haddix said. “Finally, Dr. Ted Sheldon came on board and it really took off.”

As a result of Marr’s dedication, the Archives are still growing. The original recordings have been preserved within an office on level one of the library.

Many of the pieces have been digitized for convenience under the LaBudde Special Collections’ section of the Miller-Nichols Library webpage. All photos and memorabilia are within the LaBudde Special Collections. Many pieces are also available on Merlin, the library’s virtual search catalog.

The Archives have recently expanded with new office spaces for two staff members, including Haddix and Kelley Martin, as well as a roomy listening and reception area.

“Our first expansion has greatly enhanced our public availability and the way we deliver our services has changed over the years as well,” Haddix said.

This also includes their ability to duplicate memorabilia and online databases.

“This is very important because people discover pieces of our collections [here]. A lot of other collections aren’t doing this,” Haddix said.

For documents, finding aids are created and available on Merlin through the library’s website.

The Archives are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. All are welcome – students, researchers and faculty alike, to browse or listen to recordings.. Requests for copies of recordings can be done in person as well.

According to Haddix, the collection is gaining a lot of posters, recordings and other memorabilia mostly of the Rock n’ Roll era, due to the baby boomer generation retiring and donating its collections.

“This is really exciting for me because it’s my generation. I get a real kick out of seeing all of those records come in,” Haddix said.

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