Preservation Hall Foundation’s Archives protects and preserves the tens of thousands of documents, instruments, artwork and other historically important artifacts collected by Preservation Hall over the past 50 years. This essential collection of materials ultimately will be accessible to researchers, students, and jazz aficionados.
The archives are dedicated to William “Bill” Russell, one of the leading authorities on early New Orleans jazz, and founder of American Music Records, which helped bring many forgotten New Orleans performers, including Bunk Johnson, to public attention. Russell moved to New Orleans in 1956, and was a catalyst of early activities at Preservation Hall. He also co-founded and became the first curator of The Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. In his obituary, The New York Times noted: “Russell was the single most influential figure in the revival of New Orleans jazz.”
Currently the Archives are spread throughout over ten un-conditioned storage containers and numerous rooms in Preservation Hall and Jaffe's private residence. With full funding, the Preservation Hall Foundation will be able to bring all materials to an interim facility to be assessed, catalogued, annotated, photographed, and properly preserved.
With the stabilization of the Archives, the work will shift to the digitization and display of the most important items in an online accessible rich content database. In the fall, a team of Jazz Preservation Archives Fellows will be selected and hired for residencies in New Orleans under the guidance of a full time senior archivist. The Archives Fellowship program will extend to information architects, a database programmer and user interface designers to create the definitive public web archives with regular updates highlighting the historical significance of specific items and the greater context of the materials in the Archives.
The ultimate goal will be to establish a permanent archives facility to act as a neighborhood historical center, providing public access to our presently uncatalogued collections. Access would fuel original scholarly research in history, the humanities, arts and cultural criticism by giving scholars and musicians access to our archives and collections. We envision that this new home for the archives and collections could become the site of public exhibits, lectures, screenings, publications, dialogues, workshops, neighborhood oral-history sessions and collaborations which explore the history and perpetuation of New Orleans’ traditional music. We also plan to make our collections available online and to create regular web-based exhibits for fans, listeners and musicians across the globe.