UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive Wins Major Public Sector Award

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The UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, has been awarded the Judith McCulloh Public Sector Award by the Society for Ethnomusicology. The award recognizes the significant contributions of the archive to the broader public, and its reach beyond the ivory tower.

Part of the Department of Ethnomusicology’s World Music Center, the archive was established in 1961 and houses over 150,000 sources in audiovisual, print, and manuscript form. It is now the second largest in the United States, exceeded in size only by the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress. Long a destination for researchers from across the globe, the Ethnomusicology Archive is internationally renowned as one of the great repositories and learning centers anywhere in the world.

The projects of the past few years have been of a grand scale. In 2019, the archive completed a project digitizing sixty sets of field recordings. Published by Adam Matthew, a leading British publisher of archival materials in the digital landscape, Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings is now available for institutional purchase, and has been widely taken up. Additionally, the archive required Adam Matthew to provide free digital access of the recordings to originating communities.

“It was important to all of us to have the publisher guarantee that access,” said Helen Rees, Professor of Ethnomusicology and Director of the World Music Center. “We had situations where people had not had the opportunity to hear recordings of their fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and grandfathers from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.”

Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings has been recognized as a leading database by others in the field. Library Journal named it one of the year’s top reference databases in 2019, noting its “bonanza of information for anyone interested in the study of world music cultures, particularly non-Western ones.” Choice Reviews, the journal of the Association of College and Research Libraries, named it an “outstanding academic title” in 2020, calling it a “rich, rewarding, expansive database” and “unmatched” in the field.

A major reason for the award was the creation of the interactive sourcebook Our Culture Resounds, Our Future Reveals: A Legacy of Filipino American Performing Arts in California, edited by Eleanor Lipat-Chesler and Mary Talusan Lacanlale. Maureen Russell, the Ethnomusicology Archive’s head of cataloguing, served as lead archivist in the project. The sourcebook is available for download, free of charge. To date, it has been downloaded over 5,000 times.

“The UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive has been an important resource to Filipino American community for over 19 years,” said Liptat-Chesler, a Fulbright fellow who completed her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at UCLA. “Being an archive graduate student researcher and Archiving Filipino American Music in Los Angeles Project Director helped give me and my fellow UCLA students the needed connections and momentum to co-found Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble and Ube Arte, a community-focused performing arts education and research collective.”

Her co-editor agreed. “Two decades ago, when I was a graduate student of ethnomusicology at UCLA, I could not find a resource on Filipino American music and hoped that someday someone would create one,” said Talusan Lacanlale, who is now assistant professor of Asian-Pacific Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “This dream came true when Eleanor and I brought together fellow artists and scholars to shed light on the contributions of an often underrepresented community.”

All involved recognized archivist Maureen Russell as a driving force behind the sourcebook and the long partnership between Ube Arte. Russell, who was named UCLA Librarian of the Year in 2021, has long been working with community partners to make records more accessible. With the support of California Revealed, a California State Library initiative that assists in digitizing and preserving archival materials, Russell has made over 1700 of the Ethnomusicology Archive’s available online, including the Ube Arte collection.

“I could not have asked for better partners than Eleanor and Mary,” said Russell. “As an archivist, the key is understanding that it is not about you. When archives partner with communities, it is about empowering the community.”

The Judith McCulloh Public Sector Award recognizes the Ethnomusicology Archive’s recent achievements, and also its longstanding leadership in cultural preservation and public outreach. In the past two decades, the archive has focused on local collaborations, of which the extensive work with southern California’s Filipinx/Filipino population was a part. The archive has also worked to return materials to their communities of origin.

“This has been a particular focus of the archive in the twenty-first century,” said Rees. “They have taken a leading role in repatriation, and in the public sharing of documents.”

Russell and long-serving past archivists Aaron Bittel, John Vallier, and Louise Spear all worked on these efforts. Work by David Martinelli, the archive’s recently retired recording technician, was particularly important to the projects.