Over six years ago my family decided it was time to organize all of our Spec’s Music memorabilia and figure out what to do with it. We did some research and elected to donate a wide array of items to the University of Miami Special Collections department.
The Spec’s Music Collection Scope and Contents can be viewed here:
As a result of everyone’s hard work, which was spearheaded by my mother, Ann Lieff, the Spec’s Music legacy will live on in a place where students and the public can view archives of the business that spanned 50 years and affected multiple generations. Although this took a great deal of time and effort, our family did not receive any financial benefits from the University Miami. But that wasn’t the point. We wanted to know that all of the newspaper and magazine clippings, business records, photographs, store memorabilia, and framed music posters, and plaques were organized and in a place that could be viewed by anyone for educational, research, or nostalgic purposes.
But apparently Spec’s isn’t the only former record store entity with a legacy to preserve. In 2009, Tower Records founder Russ Solomon donated more than 200 boxes of photos, artwork, memorabilia, and neon signs from his former music store chain. Then in 2012, a campaign was launched to raise money to create an archive for everything Solomon donated to the Center for Sacramento History. Similar to the Spec’s Collection, but on a much larger scale, the initial goal was to make the materials available for scholars and students and the second goal was to create an online community that would allow former employees and fans to share their personal stories, photographs, and mementos about the world’s first music superstore via Facebook. Solomon has taken it even further with his third goal which is creating a nationwide traveling exhibit that will start in Sacramento and visit large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and New York.
They are still accepting donations: http://towerrecordsproject.org
According to a June 2012 Sacramento Business Journal article, the organizers were hoping to raise at least $300,000 by the end of September 2012 for the archiving work. Although it is unclear whether or not they reached that goal, the list of supporters on the website is fairly substantial. That being said, when I read that number my jaw hit the floor. I’m all for preserving music history, especially when it comes to record store chains, but six figures to create this exhibit? Were they serious?
And then today I read an article that upped the ante even more. The University of Tulsa is now the proud owner of Bob Dylan’s personal archive of notes, draft lyrics, poems, artwork, and photographs which will be available to scholars and curated for public exhibitions. Spanning Dylan’s 55-year career, the 6,000-item collection was, according to The New York Times, sold for $15 million. Wow.
Dylan said in a statement that he is pleased that all of his stuff is together in one place. “I’m glad that my archives, which have been collected all these years, have finally found a home and are to be included with the works of Woody Guthrie … To me, it makes a lot of sense and it’s a great honor.” Sounds like he and my mother had the same thought process in terms of the importance of of music history, whether global or local, being organized into a collection.
So the question is will this become the industry standard? If artists are getting older or are no longer touring, will they find a university to buy their stuff and make millions? Will the few remaining record stores end up doing the same if they can’t survive? I can’t emphasize enough how much I value music history so I hope artists and former record executives have the same mindset as Ann Lieff when it comes to handling their archives: “Create or enhance a legacy that already exists and make these collections available to students and society.”