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A Look Inside the National Jukebox

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Gene DeAnna, Head, Recorded Sound Section, Library of Congress.
Gene DeAnna manages the preservation, conservation, and cataloging of the Section’s more than 3.5 million sound recording items and oversees acquisitions and outreach activities.

What follows is a guest post by Carla Arton and Harrison Behl, processing technicians in the Recorded Sound Section, Library of Congress


In May 2013, the staff-led Packard Campus Institute (PCI) hosted a presentation on the National Jukebox by Gene DeAnna, Head of the Recorded Sound Section at the Library of Congress. In his presentation, Gene showcases several recordings and demonstrates the various features designed to encourage exploration of this amazing trove of recordings. The presentation below is an edited version of a talk delivered to Library staff as part of the Packard Campus Institute (PCI) ongoing lecture series.

[Gene DeAnna Presents the National Jukebox.  (55 minutes, Library of Congress, 2013)]


The National Jukebox launched to the public in 2011, providing unprecedented access to over 10,000 recordings made in the early days of commercial sound recording; before microphones or electrical amplification. These acoustic recordings represent a period of change in the entertainment world, when performances no longer had to be live in order to be heard and the exact same performance could be heard multiple times. Commercialized sound recordings were a technological phenomenon that allowed consumers to bring the voices of popular performers and important persons of the time into their homes.

Acoustical Recording
Acoustic Recording, photographic collection, Recorded Sound Section, Library of Congress

The National Jukebox now provides us with the ability to hear those recordings to gain both a deeper understanding of our cultural heritage and to enjoy some of the great performers, popular songs, and important speeches, which have been almost completely inaccessible for decades. More specifically, the Jukebox includes rare ethnic and traditional/country recordings, as well as political addresses and speeches, Shakespearian monologues, popular and classical works by the superstars of the era, the earliest jazz and blues recordings, comedic sketches, not to mention the rich but now forgotten genre of whistling tunes (seriously, check these out).

For your additional entertainment, we have included a scavenger hunt to help you explore the various functions of the Jukebox, as well as find some new favorite recordings and maybe even make your own playlist to share with friends.

Jukebox Scavenger Hunt!
Jukebox Scavenger Hunt!

The Recorded Sound Section at the Library of Congress is currently working on the next phase of the National Jukebox project, expanding the number of recordings and record labels through new partnerships with the Johnson Victrola Museum, Thomas Edison National Historical Park, and the University of Wisconsin. Stay tuned for more.



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