April 7, 2014
The National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress has added one of the collections held by the Archives of Traditional Music to the 2013 Registry. A collection of aluminum disc recordings of Kwakwaka'wakw Chief Dan Cranmer made by Franz Boas and George Herzog in 1938 is now one of the 25 recordings selected for special recognition. Other registrants include Linda Ronstadt's "Heart Like a Wheel" album, the presidential recordings of Lyndon Johnson, and the Everly Brothers' single "Cathy's Clown." The Boas/Herzog collection is the only set of ethnographic recordings selected by the Library of Congress for this year's registry.
Boas conducted research with the Kwakwaka'wakw, a First Nations people in British Colombia, who were then commonly referred to as the Kwakiutl. In 1938, Boas was collaborating with Chief Dan Cranmer, who had travelled to Columbia University in New York to stay with him while they worked on creating a dictionary of the Kwak’wala language. George Herzog had just completed his Ph.D. under Boas, and was helping his 80 year-old mentor make recordings of sung and spoken Kwak’wala.
Boas conducted extensive ethnographic research in collaboration with the Kwakwaka'wakw beginning in the 1890s and he had brought a group of Kwakwaka'wakw performers to the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. He later worked closely with chief Dan Cranmer, both on Vancouver Island and in New York. Cranmer had been jailed by Canadian authorities in 1921 for hosting a potlatch in defiance of laws that were meant to stamp out this central cultural practice.
The Library of Congress adds just 25 recordings to the Registry each year, choosing recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant and are at least 10 years old from nominations made by the public and by the National Recording Preservation Board.In 1938, Herzog had just completed his Ph.D. under Boas and was beginning to do work that would be foundational for the field of of ethnomusicology,. Herzog came to IU Bloomington in 1948 and brought with him a large cache of wax cylinders and disc recordings which became the basis of "The Archive of Folk and Primitive Music," later renamed, "The Archives of Traditional Music.
The full press release can be found on the IU Newsroom website and a collection highlight page with background information about the collection and an audio sample can be found within the ATM website. More information about the 2013 National Recording Registry can be found on the website of the National Recording Preservation Board.