Student spearheads Record Exchange and Albertsons Library collaboration to make an archive of Idaho’s music history

On Jan. 26, Albertsons Library announced its partnership with The Record Exchange to support the preservation of Idaho’s musical history. The collaboration will allow library-goers to listen to music both digitally and on vinyl. 

Cora Lee Oxley, a Boise State senior majoring in humanities and cultural studies with a minor in english literature was the visionary behind this exciting win for Boise’s music-loving community. 

The project came to fruition after Oxley participated in a five-week course project that allowed her to meet with archivists and discuss the process of establishing a special collection. Oxley noticed a gap in the archives’ documentation of musical history in Idaho and due to her work at The Record Exchange was inspired to connect the two organizations.

“My initial thought, having worked downtown, both at the Record Exchange and Rediscovered Books —  there is a good amount of historical materials that pass through local retail spaces that aren’t valuable in a retail space or are not worth reselling,” Oxley said. “That got me curious about how we could start spreading the word and educating people about what types of materials might be worthwhile for the archives to hang on to … I wanted to set the foundation within those five weeks for a long-term relationship between the archives and the Boise music community and use the record exchange as a touch point and a locus for that communication.”

Oxley’s vision behind the collaboration doesn’t end with music recordings being integrated in a bigger way into the library archives, she hopes that music education courses can utilize the materials to enrich the learning experience.

“The biggest thing that I want to see happen is to have it be creative, not just a repository for student work, but a repository for students to integrate into their work as well,” Oxley said. “Some of the ideas that I have for that are using some of the raw audio files that are getting added to the archives in music production courses and potentially, encouraging students to participate in documenting local oral history of music for music history courses.”

The act of holding a record or cassette in your hands is one of the ways individuals feel connected to the music they consume. Oxley touched on this phenomenon and the benefits of having a physical catalog of music, although some of the collection is digitized.

“There is something really important and just kind of wonderful about holding something that somebody else made in your hands,” Oxley said. “The digital consumption of music in some really particular way is disconnected from the conversations around music and human connection around music and the humans who are creating the music, when you hold a record in your hand, you can see and feel all of the other hands that went into it.”

With Idaho’s ever-changing music scene, Oxley discussed why music documentation in Idaho is important to her, and how the collaboration supports this concept.

“For me, that’s part of the importance is respecting the real people behind this [music scene],” Oxley said. “And then also adding fuel to a really good fire that’s already going and has been burning for a long time.”

While the collection focuses on Idaho musicians, if the connection to said musician is established, they can donate other artists’ work to the archive as well.

“They [the archive] have multiple kinds of collections in their possession where the person who collected all of those materials over the course of their life or career is from Idaho, but maybe the materials and documents that they have are not related to Idaho,” Oxley said. “My best friend, her dad was a pretty prominent musician in the Boise punk scene, if she were to donate his entire collection of his records, he is an Idaho musician, he has those ties and he may have records from elsewhere, but the connection is established.”

Cheryl Oestreicher, head of special collections and university archivist for the Albertsons Library, shared her perspective on the future of music archiving and preservation. 

As vinyls have become all the rage with Gen Z and millennials, and even CDs are beginning to be thought of as “retro”, the future of music preservation is anyone’s guess.

“I like to think it’s always going to be a mix because there are some people who say that digital never sounds as good as vinyl,” Oestriecher said. “For archives, we will always have physical aspects because people will save things. With music, I think both for the archive but also going forward, it’d be interesting to see what the balance is between the physical and the digital.”

Oestreicher highlighted the many underrated artists from Idaho whose work should be preserved for future generations.

“Idaho is so overlooked in so many ways,” Oestreicher said. “We have musicians and artists who have become nationally known or internationally known, Curtis Staggers and jazz Josh Ritter Built to Spill alternative, Rosalie Sorrels. It’s not always about national, it’s about local, and we have this culture, we have things and appreciating what we have just around us.”

This collaboration will impact the future of music lovers in Idaho, both by exposing future Idahoans to music history and also by allowing artists to document their music catalog over time. Students like Oxley and archivists like Oestreicher play an integral role in preserving Idaho’s musical legacy and have created a collection that will inspire years of music research to come.  

Leave a Reply