Lend an Ear

By Meghan Starr

Flickr photo by Affendaddy

On January 27, 2003, the first 50 selections to be preserved in the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress were announced.  The Registry was established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 for the purpose of preserving America’s sound recording heritage. 

Open nominations for recordings that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” are accepted each year (by July 1st)  in 25 different categories with winners announced the following spring.  Categories include musical genres, technology, comedy, and documentary among others.  Recordings must be at least 10 years old.

Included in the initial 50 recordings were Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue,  F.D.R.’s Fireside chats, Passamaquoddy Indians field recordings,  Booker T. Washington’s 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, and Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Later years have included recordings as varied as the World Series – Game 4, Oklahoma! (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Patsy Cline’s CrazyThe Girl from Ipanema, The Star Wars soundtrack, Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Street, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,  Michael Jackson’s Thriller,  and the Library of Congress Marine Corps Combat Field Recording Collection, Second Battle of Guam.

The oldest recording dates back to 1853, while the most recent is a 1995 recording by 2Pac.  They can be as short as 3 minutes to as long as an 80 hour recitation of the King James Bible.

Click here for a list of items on the Full National Recording Registry

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