The sounds of Nebraska constitute an important and unique collecting area for the Nebraska State Historical Society. Scholars respect the value of audio recordings as historical resources, and the Historical Society has long encouraged their generation and preservation. Not only do these recordings represent a relatively new technology, but they also bring into focus a vital aspect of our culture that other documents cannot. They have entertained us, instructed us, persuaded us, and helped us to remember. And all in a medium that by its nature captures our attention and fascination.
The Historical Society's audio recording collections number over 2,500 recordings, dating from 1898 to the present. The formats and genres illustrate the broad spectrum of sound recording activity in Nebraska, from radio advertisements to Native American music, from oral history interviews about neighborhoods, communities, and events to political speeches and debates, from lectures to local radio news coverage. The thread that links them all is a connection to Nebraska, either by virtue of their content or their production.
How to access the Sound Recording Collections
At this time, very few public finding aids exist for the sound recordings. Some are indexed in our on-line Archival Collection Database. Otherwise, consult with the Curator of Visual and Audio Collections for help with your request. In-depth sound recording research can also be performed as needed. Costs for Society staff to assist with research into the sound recording collections beyond a simple consultation of existing indexes and descriptions are found in the Fees for Duplication & Special Access schedule. Beyond the 4-hour maximum, a contract researcher may accommodate customers. Contact the Curator of Visual and Audio Collections for more information.
Because of the machine-dependent nature of audiovisual materials, we cannot allow access to the delicate original sound recordings. We do, however, make reference copies in digital formats. These can be used in the Reference Room, or (in many cases) borrowed or even purchased. If a reference copy does not already exist, we will endeavor to make them on an "as-needed" basis.
How to obtain copies from NSHS Sound Recording Collections
Copies of sound recordings may be obtained in a variety of formats. For duplication prices, see the Fees for Duplication & Special Access schedule. This will also tell you how long orders generally take to fill. Then, contact the Curator of Visual and Audio Collections to place your order.
If a reference master is not already available, there may be a lab service fee involved. Lab services include the examination, repair, preparation, duplication and reformatting of sound recordings, as well as special access to these materials through the use of equipment in the Society's Audio-Visual Lab. The Curatorial Staff can provide a bid.
Another way to use a copy of a sound recording is by borrowing a preview copy. The Society will not loan out original materials. However, if reference copies of sound recordings exist, they may be borrowed for research and evaluation only for a period of two weeks. No permissions or licenses are given or implied with the loan of reference materials.
Other considerations in acquiring copies of sound recordings are shipping and handling charges, tax, and any applicable use fees for the use of sound recordings in some commercial and non-commercial projects. For details on use fees, see Fees for Use of Moving Images & Sound Recordings.
Contact the Curator of Visual and Audio Collections for more information.