National Black History Museum to Include Baylor University Gospel Music Collection

Article excerpt

When the National Museum of African American History and Culture [NMAAHC] opens in 2015 on the National Mall in Washington, Baylor University will have made a valuable contribution to the new museum by allowing access to the school's renowned Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.

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This past December, the Smithsonian Institution announced that a significant portion of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project's digital collection will be included in the new museum's Musical Crossroads exhibition, which will present the story of African-American music from the arrival of the first Africans in North America to the present day.

"What could be better than the world's largest museum complex with millions of visitors coming through to have the opportunity to hear this music?" says Robert Darden, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) director and Baylor University journalism professor.

Darden notes that the inclusion of preserved music in the national museum represents a milestone achievement for what is believed to be the largest archive, including digital copies and vinyl records, of African-American gospel music produced from the 1940s through the 1970s. Darden estimates that more than 25,000 songs have been archived into the BGMRP's digital collection. The project was established in 2008 and is maintained by Baylor Libraries' Digital Projects Group at the university.

The four-decade period that the project covers is known as the "Golden Age of Gospel," during which the music partly came under the influence of and reflected the American Civil Rights Movement, according to Darden.

"The project's original goal is to save the music and then eventually make the music more widely disseminated and available ...," he says. "[The Smithsonian collaboration] is a dream come true. I never thought it would come true in this particular way."

Dwandalyn Reece, the NMAAHC's music and performing arts curator, says the BGMRP recordings will be an important addition to help museum visitors understand gospel's contribution to the social history and spiritual life of African-Americans.

The BGMRP has largely grown out of the pioneering research and journalism Darden has pursued throughout his career as a writer and scholar. Not long after completing the book People Get Ready! …

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