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Photograph of two early American popular music scores found in the Kirk Collection

    Historic Music Collections:
    Kirk, Wilmette, & Conrady

Links to Lists, Databases, Etc.

Three collections of published music are located in the Special Collections Department. Concentrated on popular music, these are the Kirk Collection, the Conrady Collection, and the Wilmette Danceband Collection. As a group, these are known as the Historic Music Collections. They are delineated below:

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Amassed by C. Weir Kirk, a Terre Haute, Indiana area musician, the Kirk Collection contains nearly 14,000 published examples of popular music primarily from the 1920's and 1930's, although there is significant representation from the turn of the twentieth century to as late as 1972. Given as a gift to the Library by the Department of Music in 1985, the collection was sorted first by category and then by title. In 1988, the collection was moved to Special Collections.

The most numerous holdings are nearly 7,500 copies of popular songs, including 2,061 country music songs, 2, 582 artists' scores intended to promote the sale of sheet music in department and music stores, and more than 2,000 commercially-sold popular songs in sheet music format. In addition, the collection contains over 1,500 complete dance band sets.

Digitization of the commercially-sold sheet music content and professional/artist copy sheet music has been completed. Covers of commercial sheet music published through 1922 have also been digitized in thumbnail images. Some of this content, when copyright guidelines do not inhibit it, are available for viewing or download in the PDF format.

It should be noted that some material copyrighted after 1922 is now in the public domain, depending on whether the copyright was renewed. As time allows, links to PDFs of any sheet music in the public domain, both commercial and professional, will be inserted into existing lists.

The dance band sets have been cataloged using brief records and made available in the on-line public access catalog, FusionPlus Advanced. They may be searched by title of the work or by keyword. The term "kirk collection" combined with the name of a composer or a word from the title will generate a short list from which the user may choose a fuller record. These sets are digitized in their entirety through 1922. Currently, the titled published through 1922 are selectable or viewable both from the web listings found on Dance Band Index and linked in online catalog records.

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In 2008, the Wilmette Historical Museum, located in Chicago, donated 817 primarily early twentieth-century dance band sets. The Wilmette Collection is housed adjacent to the Kirk Collection. As is the case with already held dance band sets, many of them are missing parts. Some of the music is two-sided, containing more than one tune. The scores have been sorted into separate folders and are listed in an Access database. An online askSam database of the music is available. There are no immediate plans to digitize music in the public domain at this time. Feel free to contact us with inquiries and check back often.

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The Conrady Collection was donated by its collector, Denis A. Conrady, in September 2009. It contains approximately 2,200 specimens, including popular sheet music and barbershop quartet sheet music. Coverage is mainly from the 1920s through the 1970s, but with the greatest concentration in the 1940s and 1950s. The style of music is varied as are the artists. Most of the music has cover art. A searchable database is in preparation.

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The Historic Music Collections provide a unique window on a bygone era. As a resource for study of popular culture, they are a rich asset. In addition, the collections provide opportunities for musicians to study period arrangements of sometimes hard-to-find popular songs.

Lists, Databases, Etc.

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