Belfer Audio Archive head to start in January

A new voice will lead the Belfer Audio Archive when Jenny Doctor starts as its new director in January.

The archives were without a director for several years, preventing participation in professional related activities, said Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries and university librarian, in an email. Belfer, which is located next to E.S. Bird Library, is one of the nation’s foremost audio archives. It houses more than 500,000 recordings that include historic audio recordings, recordings of political leaders, poets, philosophers, famous actors, early radio broadcasts and unreleased discs from major recording companies, according to a Dec. 21, 2010, SU news release.

Doctor, a faculty member in the University of York’s Department of Music, will bring Belfer back into the national conversation, Thorin said.

‘With Doctor as director, we will again be active in conferences and professional organizations, sharing discoveries with colleagues at other audio archives and institutions,’ she said.

Doctor also said in an email she hopes to raise awareness of Belfer.

‘I hope to improve access to the recordings, both by enhancing the collection’s presence on the Internet and by making it easier for potential listeners to gain access to the recordings,’ Doctor said.

A new state-of-the-art classroom was also built in Belfer with funds from a $505,000 grant awarded to Syracuse University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, according to the release. Doctor said she is excited because the classroom will enhance Belfer’s ability to act as an interdisciplinary center for research and teaching in the history of recorded sound.

In keeping with the Belfer’s interdisciplinary vision, Doctor will also be a faculty member at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she hopes to add an American perspective to her previous research on music and the media in Britain.

‘I will now transfer my knowledge of music and the media to the American social context,’ she said.

Patrick Midtlyng, a Belfer sound archivist who was hired last September, said he is also pleased with Doctor’s hire.

‘Her enthusiasm and energy will be an asset to the archive,’ he said in an email. ‘I look forward to working with her to re-establish the Belfer’s place amongst audio archives and with researchers in sound preservation and historic sound recordings.’

Both Doctor and Midtlyng’s appointments were made possible by the $505,000 grant, according to the release.

Though the archives are well known outside the university, within the university they are not, Midtlyng said.

‘Student use of Belfer is varied,’ Midtlyng said. ‘Many may not know what we have here. That is one of my goals: to increase both the knowledge and use of the archive.’

Midtlyng is quick to point out the various ways students can use the archives. Students are able to search the audio archives on the library website and can also listen to Sound Beat, a daily 90-second show on NPR that highlights Belfer’s archives.

Both Doctor and Midtlyng agree that the full potential of the archives has not yet been realized and hope to increase its contributions to the academic world as well as its presence on campus.

‘The Belfer is an amazing place and resource. We need to make sure that people know that it is here and available,’ Midtlyng said. The Belfer is one of the largest sound archives in the country and should be a point of pride for the SU community.’


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