University of Kansas Sound Archive

About the Archive

The University of Kansas Sound Archive is a closed research collection of more than 100,000 recordings representing the entire chronology of recorded sound. It is administratively part of the KU Music and Dance Library. There are several large collections housed in the archive: the James Seaver Opera Archive, the Richard F. Wright Jazz Archive, the AudioHouse Collection, the Paul Bierley Band Collection, and various smaller collections. These collections include albums of Broadway/London musicals and film soundtracks, as well as the original master reels from the 1972 International Carnival of Experimental Sound (ICES).

Bibliographic records are being added to the KU Libraries’ online catalog. Until the process of entering each individual title is completed, some items will be missing from the catalog. If you cannot find a specific title in the catalog, please consult the staff of the Music and Dance Library, who will check the un-cataloged items.

James Seaver Opera Archive

The James Seaver Opera Archive is a collection of opera and vocal music that range from cylinders to 78s to LPs to CD and video recordings. There are many rare early Berliner and Edison records. Also in this collection are tapes of some of Dr. Seaver’s popular radio program, "Opera is My Hobby," as broadcast by KANU.

Richard F. Wright Jazz Archive

The Richard F. Wright Jazz Archive at the University of Kansas is one of the most complete of its kind in the Midwest. Its holdings cover thoroughly all major jazz periods from the 1920s and 1930s on 78-rpm recordings (New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, the swing era) as well as the many genres following World War II (bop, cool, funky/hard bop, third stream, avant-garde, fusion and soul jazz).

The collection contains many rare and out-of-print items on labels that are in great demand by jazz collectors and dealers around the world. There are extensive holdings of Bethlehem, BYG, Coral, Debut, Dial, ESP-Disk, Jubilee, Mode, Roost, Tampa, Time and United Artists. There are also many nearly complete catalogs of such major jazz companies as Argo, Atlantic, Blue Note, Columbia, Contemporary, Fantasy, Imipulse, Pacific Jazz, Prestige, RCA Victor, Riverside, and Roulette. Twelve-inch V-disks and 16” (33-rpm) discs from the 1930s and early 1940s are in the jazz archive. Many of these items, particularly albums on the Intro, Good Time Jazz and Storyville labels, are extremely rare and have been out of print for many years. Included in the many items of interest to historians and collections is the personal collection of orchestra leader and jazz promoter, Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols, which includes master tapes and transcription discs of performances from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

The jazz archive is a collection of more than 25,000 12” 33-rpm recordings, 900 10” 33-rpm recordings, 5,000 78-rpm recordings, and 650 reel-to-reel tapes. The archive’s largest contributors have been KU Associate Professor, radio host and jazz authority, Richard F. “Dick” Wright, as well as Kansas City collectors Howard D. Rittmaster, Rosalind Gregory and Ernest Johnson Sr., Dallas enthusiasts Lloyd V. and Julia R. Mathis, and KU professor and jazz critic Chuck Berg. Many others have contributed substantial numbers of rare and valuable recordings.

Clippings, announcements, promotional materials and programs are among the many items that enhance the collection.

Almost every well-known artist, as well as many unknown and forgotten players, is represented in the archive with 30 to 40 albums each by such outstanding figures as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Oscar Peterson. Future research may reveal that the complete recording output of many jazz artists will be found here. Famous jazz figures associated with Kansas City (Charlies Parker, Mary Lou Williams, and Coleman Hawkins) are well represented in the collection. Ten-inch and 12” Charlie Parker releases on the Dial label and two by Dick and Kuz Harp for the 90th Floor label are examples of extremely rare recordings that can be found in the archive.

For more information regarding the Sound Archive, please contact the KU Music and Dance Library. Access to material in the archive is by appointment only.

Located in Gorton Music & Dance

  • Media Facilities

    The Joe and Joyce Hale Media Center features 12 Windows PCs for digital audio and video playback and general use, as well as eight Mac computers dedicated for media editing. Headphones are available for checkout at the circulation desk, as well as MIDI keyboards.

  • Digital Recordings

    Patrons may play back digital recordings at any workstation, or they may use the sound system in our group listening room (240B) to play digital and vinyl recordings. CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes are held behind the service desk.

  • Video Recordings

    Video recordings are available for one-week checkouts. All of the library's sound and video recordings are listed in the online catalog. Some of the recordings and videos in the Sound Archive are listed in the online catalog; more will be added as work on the sound archive progresses.

  • Sound Archive

    The University of Kansas Sound Archive is a closed research collection of more than 100,000 recordings representing the entire chronology of recorded sound.

  • Subject Guides

    Dance, film, music, theater, and vocal music are the subjects covered here.

  • Individual Study Rooms

    Reserve a space to focus on your coursework.