The Fetish Of The Artifact

I've been volunteering at the ARChive of Contemporary Music for almost a year, and my favorite thing to help them with is alphabetizing. Yes, putting things in alphabetical order. Not only does it satisfy my practically pathological need to organize, but it lets me get my hands on the real artifacts. Records that were shrink wrapped and shipped decades before I was born, marred by needles dropped repeatedly on the grooves. Album covers that are shaded with ringwear, indicating age like tree rings. Off-center labels with beautifully inconsistent typography, tattooed in ballpoint pen with the owner's name. I love the artifact, the art, and its history. Yesterday, I found a nine-inch 78 rpm record in the "J" section by George W. Johnson, the first African-American recording artist. This dusty little disc is 105 years old! And the voice of this man who was born into slavery but sang his way to Vaudeville still emanates from its grooves.

I wrote about it on the ARChive's blog.