Make Your Own Music: The Library of Congress’s “Citizen DJ” Project

Have you ever harbored daydreams of becoming a DJ? Or perhaps you’d love to create your own music album? We’re not talking 80s mixtapes here–we’re talking about actually remixing your own songs! Thanks to the “Citizen DJ” lab project at the Library of Congress, you can now do just that, with or without music-composition software. The project is in the beta stage, meaning that your testing and feedback is essential to making this communal effort towards socio-cultural, musical engagement a success!

The Library of Congress has curated many free audio/visual clips in various collections for everyone to use, from “The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies,” to its “Free Music Archive,” to “American English Dialect Recordings” (all can be found at the Citizen DJ link above). You can browse and remix sounds like a pro hip-hop DJ right in your browser, or you can choose to download clips to your own music composition software and play with them there. Have a look at this helpful how-to video by Brian Foo from the Innovator-in-Residence Program at the Library of Congress:

Foo explains that hip-hop, the genre of music that creatively remixed diverse sound clips and was popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, has become largely restricted by copyright issues–but here all sound samples are free and waiting for you to take part in historically-informed, communal hip-hop-style fun! You may want to read more about the aims and scope of the project here.

Need some inspiration for your music-making venture? Our digital library is here for you! hoopla offers nearly 6000 hip-hop albums for you to listen to and learn from. A sample family-friendly search can be found here (not all albums are necessarily appropriate for kids, but Parental Advisory-labeled albums are filtered out). Your concert ticket? Your Marblehead library card! If you don’t yet have one, you can fill out this online form, and the library staff will be happy to get you started!

So, get your groove on!

Explore and Help Museum and Library Archives from Your Computer

You’ve been on the virtual tours. You’ve made recycled art masterpieces and kept up with the real masterpieces, watched live animal feedings, and done science experiments. You’ve successfully done the museum thing during quarantine. Or have you?

Many museums, including some of our museum partners, historical societies, libraries, and the like have preserved their collections in digital archives that anyone can access from the comfort of their own home. These archives contain the rare, important, illuminating, and sometimes just plain weird documents that tell our collective story.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the primary archive of all documents relating to the life and work of President John F. Kennedy and his administration. It is also the primary repository of the papers of Ernest Hemingway. Visit their website to view some of JFK’s personal papers and photographs from his life, and listen to audio of his speeches and oral histories from those that knew him best.

The Cape Ann Museum has put together an entire online archival exhibition, Unfolding Histories: Cape Ann Before 1900, exploring the early history of Cape Ann, in addition to their thorough list of digital resources for continuing research projects from home. You can even try your hand at creating your own archival content during this moment in history, with some advice on creating oral histories with your family members.

The Museum of Science Collective Memory archive tells the fascinating history of the museum through staff discussions, photographs and artifacts, and quizzes! Be sure to check out the Junior Explorers Bulletin from 1945, their collection of animal photography, and invertebrate glass models.

The Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum is also a wonderful resource for documents on the cultural heritage of Massachusetts. Through a new digitization initiative, some of the Phillips Library’s extensive collection of manuscripts, photographs, maritime journals, and even documents from the Salem Witch Trials, are now available online.

And if you’d like to do more, many institutions welcome volunteers to transcribe documents to make them more accessible. All it takes is a computer, patience, and time! 

By the People from the Library of Congress is a crowdsourced effort to transcribe and tag digitized content from the Library’s collections, including letters to Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman’s writings, documents from the Women’s Suffrage movement, and more. 

The Smithsonian Museum’s Transcription Center is also full of interesting transcription projects, including Sally Ride’s papers. 

Atlas Obscura has also compiled two lists of various ways to volunteer remotely, such as tagging photos of America’s scenic byways for the National Archives, transcribing science fiction fanzine from the 1930s, and fixing transcripts from public broadcasts, including a conversation with James Baldwin. Check out more of their ideas here and here to get started today!

You can also visit the Abbot Public Library’s own digital archive, featuring articles from the Marblehead Messenger and Marblehead Reporter!

Library of Congress Historic Film Archive

While responsibly staying at home and keeping abreast of developments, we can choose to focus some of our attention on other pictures and other times. It might actually be healthy to do so! One of the constants in the last century or so of American history has been our fascination with moving pictures. And now, we have unprecedented access to one of our nation’s most revered archives of film documentation–the Library of Congress

According to a recent article in The New York Times featuring this exceptional streaming option, “the astonishment of riches includes up-close looks at our history in hundreds of films. And they’re all free.” That’s right! You can dip into snippets of life at the turn of the last century at no cost. Escape today’s pressures with some lighthearted film shorts here–you’ll find everything from a glimpse of the America’s Cup defender in 1899, to a fanciful “life drawing” session, to a spirited clip of women on horseback in full-on Victorian riding gear. Explore the LOC’s 7000+ film offerings (ranging from the 19th century to more recent times) and exist in a different world for a while! If you like, you can also sample the collection at the LOC YouTube channel.

Or perhaps you’d just like to hark back to the relative “normalcy” of last spring. If so, you’re in luck! Some of the top most-circulated films at the APL in March and April 2019 are currently available to watch or re-watch on hoopla. Take a privileged peek at the life of a storied hotel with Always at the Carlyle. Watch Emma Thompson do her best for justice in the complex, suspenseful film The Children Act. Visit the streets of Tokyo with a look at the Academy Award- nominated Shoplifters.Or try one of our library’s own 2020 “Oscar nominees” set in another of history’s dramatic moments: 1945.

So if you like your escapism tempered with a dash of past reality, you might just grab some popcorn and give these options a whirl!