Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive Plays Host to Rare Recordings

Dartmouth Now

January 22, 2013

By Keith Chapman

Radio broadcasts from Israel’s Independence Day in 1962. A children’s choral group singing folk songs in Fes, Morocco, in the 1940s. A 1951 address by the Israeli Prime Minister at a Jewish college in Massachusetts. These are just a few of the sounds housed in the Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive (DJSA), one of the largest online Jewish scholarly archives in the world.

“I know of nothing larger,” says Lewis Glinert, the cultural director of the archive and professor of Hebrew studies in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures. “It’s gone beyond my wildest dreams, really. I never knew half of these things were out there.”

Since 2002, Glinert and Professor Alex Hartov have worked to archive, digitize, restore, and distribute rare audio files through DJSA. What began as a way to store audio for teaching purposes has grown to more than 47,000 audio tracks of all types of sounds—radio broadcasts, personal histories, Yiddish songs, and more. The rare audio material has come from around the world and proves useful for a variety of research.

“I always had an interest in audio,” says Hartov, professor of engineering at Thayer School of Engineering and the technical director of the archive, “and it seemed very sad to me to see these things going to the dump.”

The archive can be accessed for free by the Dartmouth community, and has also attracted interest from around the world. The audio recordings are valuable to musicologists, linguists, oral historians, and others. Linguists want to hear how language has evolved, while musicians listen to earlier recordings of folk tunes to inform their playing of traditional music. The primary source material provides endless opportunities for scholars across disciplines.

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