The 236 tapes contain rare and unheard performances by such influential artists as Bob Dylan and Janis Ian. These performances were originally recorded for Broadside, a '60s folk music magazine. The performances were recorded in the apartment of Gordon Friesen and Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, Broadside's publishers.
The Recording Academy awarded the grant to the Southern Folklife Collection as a Recording Academy Grant, given annually to projects that advance the archiving and preservation of America's recorded music. The grant will be officially active by the end of the month.
Steve Weiss, head of the Southern Folklife Collection in Wilson Library, said that the grant will cover the cost of supplies and the hiring of employees needed to catalogue and preserve the tapes.
"These tapes are valuable because they include the most important songwriters from the folk revival movement," Weiss said. "(The Recording Academy) recognized the value of the tapes to the study of the revival and to the study of topical folk songs."
The preservation of the tapes consists of converting the original acetate recordings into preservation masters on more modern open-reel tape, with an expected completion date of Oct. 1. Once the recordings are remastered, Weiss and Preservation Engineer Jeff Carroll, will re-record the tapes in digital format, making it possible for the public to hear the recordings.
"When the preservation is complete, people will be able to obtain copies for research or come to the library and hear them," Weiss said.
Jeff Place, archivist for Smithsonian Folkways Records, said that the Southern Folklife Collection's Broadside tapes are an invaluable resource to those studying the folk movement of the 1960s. "It's amazing -- when Dylan came on to the scene in the early '60s, no one was really writing their own songs," Place said. "The whole singer-songwriter movement basically stemmed from what is documented (by the Broadside tapes)."
Place produced and compiled the Smithsonian Institution's Grammy-nominated box set, The Best of Broadside. He said that he used the Southern Folklife Collection's tapes for nearly one-fourth of the songs found on the compilation.
As Weiss was applying for the grant in September, he found that some of the artists whose work is included on the tapes were willing to help him lobby the Recording Academy for the grant.