Local Centers/Global Sounds: Historic Recordings and Midwestern Musical Vernaculars

URLs to browse or search the collections

The Mills Music Library and the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, along with many partners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are pleased to present a growing collection of unique, historic, regional and endangered sound recordings with related documentation.

These include 78-rpm recordings produced for immigrant, ethnic, and indigenous audiences by American companies in the first half of the 20th century; and more than 700 hours of original field and home recordings from the 1950s through the 1990s featuring the Upper Midwest’s culturally diverse traditional musicians. Captured in kitchens and parlors, in churches and halls, amidst festivals and in professional studios, this online collection presents dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, political anthems, and recitations, together with extensive interviews of many performers.

The collection offers:

  • Full audio streams, whenever possible
  • Photographic images
  • Field notes
  • Tape Indexes
  • Translations of titles

There are many ways to find materials:  search by name, town or place, type of music, language, recording date, keywords, etc.



The National Endowment for the Humanities has provided significant funding towards this project, with additional funds from the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture and other grant partners. Their generous support ensures broad public access in perpetuity to rare sounds, stories, and images, expanding our understanding of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest’s varied and distinctive musical heritage.