The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) has selected a rare Stanley Brothers recording as one of its Top 10 Endangered Artifacts for 2018. The record is a live transcription disc from a Stanley Brothers performance on Farm and Fun Time, the Bristol-based radio show that helped launch the careers of several early bluegrass and country artists. It was donated to The Birthplace of Country Music museum in early 2017, but is unfortunately severely damaged, with pieces of the record broken and flaking off. Due to the damage, the live tracks on the record have not been heard in over sixty years.
According to a recent blog post by Emily Robinson, Collections Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music, live recordings in the mid-twentieth century were made on lacquer discs. Robinson wrote that “these discs have an aluminum core covered with a lacquer coating. Over time, the lacquer becomes brittle and shrinks. Since the aluminum core cannot shrink, the lacquer flakes off and the recording can no longer be played.”
That’s where the VAM comes in. The association has received a grant to help preserve several of the artifacts on the list this year. A public vote will determine the top two artifacts, with first and second place receiving $5,000 and $4,000, respectively. If they were to receive those funds, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum plans to work with the Northeast Document Conservation Center, an organization that preserves audio from degraded records using a new technology called IRENE. With IRENE, detailed images are taken of the disc’s grooves and the sound is recreated using those images. While the disc would remain in its damaged state, the audio would again be available for listening.
Voting in what the VAM is calling its Peoples Choice Awards opened today (January 15) and will remain open until January 24 at midnight. Anyone can vote once a day by visiting VAM online, selecting the artifact they want to vote for, and entering their email address. The top two artifacts will be announced on February 6, and all honorees will be recognized at the Virginia Museums Advocacy Day on February 21.