The Archives of Traditional Music (ATM) is housed in the William and Gayle Cook Music Library. Beginning in 2015, Indiana University, including the IU Libraries, and University Information Technology Services, launched the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative to preserve time-based media recordings that were degrading due to the format on which they were recorded (e.g. wax cylinders, tape based recordings.) Now digitally preserved, the ATM media objects are stored in the secure climate-controlled book and object repository operated by the IU Libraries. The ATM Research and Reading Room, located in the William and Gayle Cook Music Library, offers a space to access ATM materials as well as library materials relevant to the ATM.
The ATM is a collection of culturally significant and powerful sound recordings that require special care and handling. Some collections may only be experienced by specific communities or descendants of indigenous people. Each recording requires special consideration and the context under which the recording was made is essential to understanding the audio material. ATM recognizes that the existence of the recordings may affect community members, and acknowledge that originating communities retain cultural, spiritual, and ritual rights to them, as well as to the privileges and knowledge some pieces contain. As part of a community of collections stewards at Indiana University, the IU Libraries seeks to understand and consult with originating communities as to the proper care, sharing, and storage of cultural records materials. Best practices of collections care and listening are responsive and evolving.
Access to sound recordings stewarded by the ATM is a necessarily thoughtful and mediated process. Whereas the provenance of some recordings is well documented and understood by Western Cultures, others require time and consultation before they are accessed. One of the pillars of the 2030 IU Libraries’ Strategic Plan focuses on special collection access, ensuring materials such as the Archives of Traditional Music (ATM) audio archive are prioritized. The ATM preserves music and culture from around the globe, and in some cases, not found anywhere else. With over 120,000 recordings that include more than 4,000 field collections, it is one of the largest university-based ethnographic sound archives in the United States.