Musical time capsules : back to the 50s

Over the last couple of weeks we have been doing one of our regular ‘inspections’ at the University Library side of MusiCB3. This is pretty much what it says on the tin – we take a section of the music collections and shelfcheck it, making sure that what we think we have matches up with what we actually have, and trying to solve any puzzles of missing items or similar that come up during the process.

1950's boxes

The section we have been looking at contains some of the secondary legal deposit material from the early 1950s. These are items which were sent to the library by publishers, and then on their arrival divided up from the more academic-seeming items (which were heading for ‘primary’ classmarks), and given a ‘B4fig’ classmark.

This section has always been a closed-access one, and there are very few missing items, happily. However, beyond checking that we have what we think we have, inspection can also be interesting for giving an overview of the kind of thing coming into that section of the library at a particular time, and how this changed from year to year. For example, one thing that puzzled us was that the boxes for the year 1950 are fairly numerous, but then in 1951 the amount of music coming into that section drops again quite dramatically, before picking up again in 1952. Perhaps something happened in the music publishing world at that time that accounts for this? Perhaps it was something to do with paper rationing? Or something different was happening at the library end? Or just coincidence? Answers on a postcard!

So what was coming into the library in the early 50s? Our finds so far include lots of accordion music, plenty of band parts, Gilbert and Sullivan arrangements, Disney songs with colourful covers, Mickey Mouse, popular songs and songs from films (often excitably described as “technicolour”!), and the then Princess Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh square dancing. See the slideshow below for a glimpse into the musical time capsules that are the 1950s boxes…

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