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Indiana University Liberian Collections

Kpombu, Kolahun District, Liberia.  Woman fanning rice. 1964.  Photo by Willie A. Whitten

The Indiana University Liberian Collections is a collaborative venture that includes the Archives of Traditional Music as a key partner. The ATM has long been a place for collections of Liberian materials, from the 236 cylinder recordings George Herzog made in 1930-1931 (54-223-F), the Robert Morey cylinders made in 1935 (54-003-F), the Packard Okie recordings made in 1942 (57-001-F), the Svend Holsoe recordings from 1965-1970 (76-049-F), the Mary Jo Sullivan recordings of 1975 (76-177-F), to the 1975 recordings of Ruth and Verlon Stone (82-434-F). The LCP now enhances the ATM´s rich holdings of audio and videotaped recordings of Liberian music and dance. The Liberian Collections include historical and ethnographic documents, newspapers, government publications, books, journals, dissertations, maps, slides, negatives, photographs, microfilms, audio and video tapes, artifacts, and memorabilia. The IU Liberian Collections is collecting, preserving, and making available a comprehensive range of materials and information about Liberia for researchers, students, and teachers, with special emphasis on reaching Liberians in Liberia and in the diaspora. To achieve this goal, the effort is acquiring, assessing, preserving, inventorying, indexing, cataloging, organizing, describing, managing, and publicizing Liberia-related materials in all formats.

During the early 1990s, Ruth Stone, then director of the ATM, began amassing a collection of documents and other related materials on Liberia from fellow scholars in the field. The idea of the ATM being a center for Liberian Studies was not yet born, but Dr. Stone, a Liberian specialist, made good use of the generosity of her colleagues in developing this collection. Early deposits of Liberian materials came from William Siegmann, Jane Martin, Jeanette Carter, and John and Judy Gay, creating an informal, but quickly growing collection. Initially, these donations came in addition to the audio and video recordings that are the primary format of the ATM´s collections. As these documents acquired a critical mass, the possibility arose of creating an independent repository of the materials on Liberia.

Verlon Stone has taken the lead in further development of the project and has led efforts to rescue important cultural, historial, and government documents in the aftermath of the bloody civil war.  Many documents were lost to the ravages of the war and damaged buildings that no longer kept out the tropical weather.  However, due to the efforts of the IU Liberian Collections, many of these important documents have been saved, or photocopied, or scanned, saving them from being lost entirely.  The Liberian Collections is currently working with Liberians to develop large scale digital scanning expertise and capacity.

For more information on the Liberian Collections Project, visit the project  website at http://onliberia.org/index.php