Every vinyl enthusiast recognizes this feeling: someone tells you a story about a collection of records hidden somewhere in a basement, an attic or a garage. “You must go and check it out”, dj Aso Asın told me a few months ago. “I’ll bring you in touch, it’s in Mechelen”. Not much later I’m exchanging e-mails with Brendan Burny, culture functionary at the city of Mechelen. He invites me over to the library, where we enter the dark huge archive room full of book shelves, far aways from the public space. In the middle of all the paper he toggles on the light to show the treasure I have been dreaming of: a huge collection of eight thousand jazz records, all dating from mostly the sixties and the seventies.
Where does this collection comes from?
Burny: "Every library is continuously books and music and of course before the cd popped in the eighties up it used to be vinyl only. In this library they started buying records at the end of the fifties. The ones responsible for buying the records here must have been avid collectors of jazz, who were consistently buying all the new and interesting jazz releases. There is for example very much of a few well-known jazz labels such as Riverside, Verve Records or Atlantic next to a bunch of more obscure labels. The collection has the big names such as Thelonious Monk but also lesser-known artists like Benny Green. In my opinion it’s a very impressive overview of jazz from the end of the fifties until the end of the seventies."
What happened when the cd took over libraries?
Burny: "Everybody stopped listening to records, which meant they were excluded from the libraries everywhere in the country. A small part of the collection of this library was even sold, but luckily the people responsible for selling weren’t the ones with the knowledge about jazz music, so they didn’t really touch this part of the library collection. The pop and rock records were almost all sold and replaced by cd’s."
In what condition are the records?
Burny: "The media condition is definitely still very good and the sleeves have been strengthened with tape. There is of course on every record a little insert with the register of users who lent the records from the library. This little paper is still available in most of the records by the way."
How do you want to share this collection in the future?
Burny: "The idea is to find a way to offer this collection to the people of Mechelen and every jazz lover in the country. So far only a few people know about this collection, of course we want to share it with as many listeners as possible. But we are still researching how exactly we’ll unearth this gold, since we don’t believe in the old school way of just putting them all in the library for users to take them home. This collection now has a value that is comparable to a museum, so it’s not just a commodity anymore the way it used to be in the sixties. Many of the records have become expensive as well, since they are rare and much sought after. A part of the collection that is less expensive might become available to lend though."
"Another idea of ours is to make the collection digitally available. We are exploring what it would take to make this happen, since there are some challenges when it comes to rights. We are also looking into a jukebox system, where people can listen to the records in a cosy area of the library. And we would also like to exhibit the covers of the records and organise lectures about jazz music."