CALGARY— The largest music archive in Canada is being preserved at the University of Calgary and contains compilations never heard before from some of this country’s most well-known artists.
Universal Music Canada gave the university more than 5,500 boxes full of music and artifacts that document EMI Music Canada’s history from 1949 to 2012.
A $2-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York will help the team to preserve the rare collection. The foundation is a philanthropic organization that supports the work of libraries and cultural institutions.
EMI Music Canada, which was acquired by Universal in 2012, brought a number of the world’s most famous artists to Canada, including The Beatles and Pink Floyd. A cover by Tom Cochrane, which has never been heard before, was found among the thousands of recordings in the diverse collection.
The recordings are in 40 different formats and tracking down the equipment to play and digitize them can be a challenge.
“The audiovisual material is perhaps the most fragile and the most likely to become obsolete,” Tom Hickerson, vice-provost and university librarian, told CTV Calgary.
“When we start talking about tapes that are 30 or 40 years old, the issue is that the machines that play them are also 30 or 40 years old,” said technician Nathan Chandler.
“If you look at modern technology, like a lot of it, cellphones and things and computers, they’ll last for maybe five to 10 years tops, so finding 30-year-old equipment that actually still works is always a challenge.”
The collection also includes thousands of images, lyric sheets, production notes and even drafts of album artwork.
“Now that you have behind the scenes of a record label the amount of research that can be done is going to be really positive for Canadian culture. It’s just an amazing resource for figuring out the identity of Canadians in the last half century,” said archivist Robb Gilbert. “There’s tons of music to discover in this collection.”
The goal of the project is to document Canada’s music history and to share the unique stories behind some of this country’s favourite tunes.
The University of Calgary has also partnered with the National Music Centre to help bring parts of the collection to the public.