We are world-class!

Two of our main ongoing projects have received the attention of an international community of researchers, having been accepted as contributions to the well-known ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) conference, will be held May 20-23, 2020 in Montréal, Québec. These projects are two of the flagships of the multi-faceted project New Phonograph (Nový fonograf), whose main focus is the digital preservation of different types of sound recordings. The ARSC conference is one of the most esteemed of its type in the world and addresses research, which is focused on the preservation and study of sound recordings of different types from all historical periods.

The first contribution, Transatlantic Battlefront: How the Exiled Czech Comic Duo Voskovec and Werich Continued Resistance to Nazi Occupation Via Radio, by Martin Mejzr (National Museum, Czech Republic) and Maristella Feustle (University of North Texas, USA), describes the multi-step project of the National Museum of Czech Republic, which is focused on excreating a database of scripts, recordings and other documents by Jan Werich and Jiří Voskovec (known  in the USA as George Voskovec), well-known Czech avantgarde actors, comedians and playwrights, who established the Prague Free Theatre and, in the mid-1930s, encouraged resistance to Nazi aggression, thus being forced to emigrate from Czechoslovakia to the USA in 1939. The main aim of this particular project is research, archival evidence and preservation of their wartime recordings, which were broadcast by the BBC and the Voice of America under the U.S. Office of War Information.

These recordings are housed in various cultural institutes in both the Czech Republic and the USA. Extensive international collaboration and networking is required to locate recordings in the U.S. National Archives and the Library of Congress, as well as in Iowa, Ohio, and Texas. This project aims to cast a wider net to uncover other relevant recorded sound resources in the Czech diaspora, and to raise awareness in order to locate information, documents, and institutions which will be key in building on existing research and completing an important but hidden part of trans-national history.

The second significant project, Pioneer of Sound Industry for Czechs in the United States: the first ethnic recordings by Ed Jedlička by Katie Buehner (Rita Benton Music Library, University of Iowa) and Filip Šír

(National Museum, Czech Republic), deals with a unique set of over five hundred two-minute brown wax cylinder recordings of Czech songs and stories produced by the Czech-American jeweller Ed Jedlička, who lived and worked in New York. He was the first person who produced cylinder recordings of the specific ethnic population and, fortunately, some of the recordings from this set have survived to the present day. 

In 2019, the University of Iowa received a donation of cylinders that included sixteen brown wax cylinders, thirteen of which bear the Jedlička label. Several of the cylinders in this collection pre-date the patent filing or are the only copy of a particular title, making them exceedingly rare. The cylinders were digitized at the Indiana University Media Preservation and Digitization Initiative in October 2019 and, with the help of Filip Sir of the National Museum in Prague, are in the process of being described (titles, performers, etc.). The contribution will be focused mainly on the unusual types of early recordings that document Czech culture in the United States, through the samples of the songs, performers, and producers of the content. Also discussed will be ways in which partnerships with local and international organizations are being utilized to better understand and best preserve these recordings.

Introductory picture Montreal – author Jim & Robin Kunze. Accessible under the licence CC-BY-NC via https://flic.kr/p/2hJxHb7