What did Grandpa and Grandma listen to in their leisure time? You can now listen to their music to find out.
The Department of Special Collections at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Davidson Library now has an online collection of more than 6,000 sound recordings as part of its Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. These recordings date from the 1890s to the 1920s. Recordings of those years were made on cylinders, not on the flat disks that we are accustomed to.
The project is the culmination of a two-year grant, funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The UCSB site features downloadable MP3 audio files as well as streaming versions of many of the library's cylinder recordings. More cylinders are being added as they are cataloged and digitized. The site also has "streaming radio" programs on various topics and a "featured cylinder" section, showcasing some of the most interesting items in the collection.
All the recordings were transferred from Edison cylinders, using state-of-the-art equipment. You can listen to the songs on your computer or even download them to your MP3 player and listen to them while riding the bus. You can legally copy these songs as all of them are now in the public domain.
There is an interesting side note here. Except for Edison cylinders and discs, most early sound recordings will remain copyrighted and will not enter the public domain until February 15, 2067. Details may be found at http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/copyright.php
I will offer one comment. I listened to a few of these songs and must admit that these old recordings will never replace the collection of Grateful Dead music on my iPOD.
To listen to the Hit Parade of the 1890s through the 1920s, go to http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu