Researching in music studies

Researching in Music Studies

The whiteness of music studies does not solely result from the hands of music educators. Researchers are frequently confronted with the whiteness of musical archival materials. The institutionalized processes of collecting and preserving archival sources have occluded the presence and histories of BIPOC, women, and non-binary individuals from the narratives of music history they make accessible. We have compiled some resources on responsible engagement with library archives in order to provide a starting place for scholars to address some of these issues through their archival research and teaching practices. We invite you to consider the following questions as you utilize this resource:

  • In what ways do the archives occlude the presence of people of color?
  • How do archives create oppressive narratives of history, including the myth of the white male “genius”?
  • How can archives influence what and how researchers study?
  • How do classification and labeling systems affect the narrative of the archive?
  • How does language and textual description privilege certain communities over others and reinforce potentially harmful perspectives against underrepresented communities?
  • How can you, as a researcher, confront these inequities in the archive? How can we read against the grain to uncover what can be found in the gaps of the archive?

“Underrepresented in the Archives”

On November 6, 2020, the Grant Hagan Society hosted a roundtable discussion entitled “Underrepresented in the Archives.” The event brought together humanities-area research faculty and graduate students with archival specialists Melissa Barton, Suzanne Lovejoy, Jonathan Manton, and Michelle Peralta in order to discuss how archival practices have privileged whiteness and maleness in the music-historical record. You can watch the recording of the event below:

Panelist biographies

Melissa Barton

Melissa Barton is Curator of Drama and Prose for the Yale Collection of American Literature, which includes the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, at Beinecke Library. At Beinecke Melissa has curated exhibits including “Casting Shadows: Integration on the American Stage,” “Richard Wright’s Native Son on Stage and Screen,” and “Gather Out of Star-Dust: The Harlem Renaissance and The Beinecke Library,” which was visited by thousands of people over its three-month run in 2017. Melissa wrote the accompanying catalog Gather Out of Star-Dust: A Harlem Renaissance Album, co-published by Beinecke and Yale University Press. Melissa writes and presents frequently about teaching with collections. Her own research focuses on histories of Black theater and performance, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. Her scholarship has appeared in TDR and will be included in African American Literature in Transition: 1940-1950, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Jonathan Manton

Jonathan Manton is Music Librarian for Digital and Access Services at the Gilmore Music Library. In this role he oversees a wide range of Digital Services, including digitization, digital preservation and digital access initiatives. He also manages archival arrangement and description projects and practices for the library. Before joining Yale, Jonathan was Sound Archives Librarian at Stanford University’s Archive of Recorded Sound and, before that, Technical Support Officer for the Britten Thematic Catalogue Project at the Britten-Pears Foundation in the United Kingdom.

Michelle Peralta

Michelle M. Peralta (she/her) is the Resident Archivist for Yale Special Collections in Manuscripts and Archives. From California, she earned a Master of Library and Information Science from San José State University, and a Master of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from San Diego State University. Her interests include community archives, outreach and instruction, and representation in archives and special collections.

Suzanne Lovejoy

Suzanne Eggleston Lovejoy is the Music Librarian for Reference and Instruction in the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. In addition to providing research support and teaching, she oversees a project to digitize the music manuscripts of Charles Ives. Suzanne is also an organist and pianist.  Her research interests have grown from her work with archival collections at Yale, including the music of Benny Goodman, Charles Ives, J. Rosamond Johnson, and Cole Porter. She curated an exhibit, “They Sang and Took the Sword: Music of World War I,” which features music by Yale composers as well as popular songs from the war years. She holds degrees in Music and Library Science from Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Annotated Bibliography of Additional Sources

Arnold, Hillel. “Critical Work: Archivists as Maintainers.”, August 2, 2016.

  • How can maintenance theory improve and inform the archival process and archival work?

Balachandran, Sanchita. “Race, Diversity, and Politics in Conservation: Our 21st Century Crisis.” American Institute for Conservation, May 25, 2016.

  • How does the field of art conservation recognize intangible cultural values that tell the narrative of our entire community? How can conservation recognize communities that have been marginalized, oppressed, and omitted?

Bastian, Jeannette Allis. “Reading Colonial Records Through an Archival Lens: The Provenance of Place, Space and Creation.” Archival Science 6 (2006): 267-284.

  • How does the colonial history of the West dictate the narrative(s) of the archive?
  • Abstract: [This article a]nalyzes attitudes and use of archives by post-colonial scholars who find that colonial records offer the voices of the master narrative but do not reflect the voices of the oppressed and voiceless. [It a]rgues that framing records within social provenance and a ‘community of records’ offers archival solutions to the dilemmas of locating all voices within the spaces of records.

Caswell, Michelle. “Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation.” The American Archivist 79, no. 1 (2016): 56-81,

  • What does it mean as a member of an underrepresented community to never see yourself in an institution that preserves history?
  • Abstract: Building on the author’s experiences as the co-founder and a board member of the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), this article posits that independent, community-based archives are crucial tools for fighting the symbolic annihilation of historically marginalized groups.

Caswell, Michelle, Marika Cifor, and Mario H. Ramirez. “‘To Suddenly Discover Yourself Existing’: Uncovering the Impact of Community Archives.” The Public Historian 36, no. 4 (2014): 26-37,

  • How language can reinforce or negate ideas of identity, belonging, value in underrepresented communities?
  • Abstract: Although much published work assumes that independent community archives have an important impact on communities, little research has been done to assess this impact empirically. This article begins to fill this gap by reporting the results of a series of qualitative interviews with academic members of one ethnic community regarding their responses to one community archive. More specifically, this article reports on interviews conducted with South Asian American educators regarding their responses to the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), an independent, nonprofit, community-based organization that operates the websites and The article reports on several emergent themes: the absence of or difficulty in accessing historical materials related to South Asian Americans before the emergence of SAADA; the affective and ontological impacts of discovering SAADA for the first time; the affective impact of SAADA on respondents’ South Asian American students; and SAADA’s ability to promote feelings of inclusion both within the South Asian American ethnic community and in the larger society. Together, these responses suggest the ways in which one community archives counters the symbolic annihilation of the community it serves and instead produces feelings of what the authors term “representational belonging.” The article concludes by exploring the epistemological, ontological, and social levels of representational belonging.

Fuentes, Marisa. Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

  • ReviewSamantha Pinto, Textual Cultures 13, no. 1 (Spring 2020), 228-230.

Stoler, Ann Laura. Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

  • Review: Elizabeth Engel, Archival Issues 32, no. 2 (2010), 136-138.
  • Review: Charles Jeurgens, The International History Review 32, no. 1 (2010), 151-152.
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