The short answer: archivists who want to tell you or your label/band/scene’s story. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Louisville, Kentucky.
Last week at the Society of American Archivists' annual meeting, Indie Preserves caught up with Elizabeth Reilly, curator of photographic archives at the University of Louisville and one of the four co-founders of the Louisville Underground Music Archive Project (LUMA), founded in 2013 at the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Louisville.
“We thought we were going to start in the ‘80s, but [local musicians, label owners, record store owners, and academics] told us the first punk band in Louisville started in 1978, so we expanded it,” said Reilly, referring to No Fun, the first punk rock band in Louisville.
What has LUMA collected so far? Mostly band archives, consisting of fan and label correspondence, photographs, artwork, booking paraphernalia, ticket stubs, audio, bootleg recordings, and business records. “We’ve gotten the beginnings of the archive of the Rachels -- their recordings, their fan mail, documents that show their artistic process in composing the music,” Reilly told us.
Other pieces include a mannequin leg signed by fans and presented to Slint at a show in Vancouver and the work of late Louisville musicians Jason Noble and Jon Cook. Reilly told Insider Louisville: “We have correspondence between [Cook] and Ian MacKaye, telling him about the name of his new band Fugazi, and that they are willing to play shows anywhere.” LUMA also digitized a complete run of Louisville’s Burt the Cat Fanclub Newsletter zine, which is available at their digital repository.
The stated goal of LUMA is to make its collections “freely available to the community and researchers in general, and to preserve it for future generations,” parallel to other efforts (past and present) to document Louisville's music scene. Before LUMA, there was the Louisville Hardcore website, started in 2004; earlier this year, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft hosted "White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Flyers 1978-1994," an exhibition of 150 scene flyers culled from Drag City’s book of the same name.
But local history, like Louisville's, is crowdsourced, and as we’ve stressed several times here on Indie Preserves, the valuable input of your label (or band) hinges on your stuff being well-kept.
Reilly’s advice? “Hold onto things you don’t think you need to save, or that anyone would want to see ever again -- recording contracts, label information, correspondence with fans and studios -- all that kind of stuff you might think is boring has wonderful research value in an archive, and really tells the whole story of your label,” she told us. “This is the type of history that’s not usually collected in archives in the past. By saving your stuff, it’s going to help tell the story in the future, and you’re the only ones that have that information.”
Visit the Louisville Underground Music Archive here, or follow their exploits on Facebook. If you have money to burn, LUMA needs some generous donations to digitize early punk performances currently stored on obsolete video formats. Consider it.