Introducing the Louisville Underground Music Archive Project

by Sarah-Jane Poindexter

Louisville Underground Music Archive

The University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections (ASC) recently launched The Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) Project. This timely project will document the history and culture of Louisville’s underground music scene from the 1970s to the present, with a focus on the 1980s and 1990s. Generally speaking, records of popular culture are underrepresented in archives, putting this history at risk for loss, and in this case, creating a gap in the historical record related to independent/underground music culture in Louisville.

ASC’s goal is to address the gap by actively collecting a wide variety of materials including oral histories, show recordings, set lists, photographs, zines, posters, flyers, t-shirts, ephemera, correspondence, business records, and early web history related to the music scene. This is in keeping with ASC’s mission to collect, organize, preserve, and make available for research rare and unique materials, particularly relating to the history and cultural heritage of Louisville, Kentucky and the surrounding region.

LUMA collection materials

Collection items from the Jon Cook Papers and the Aron Conaway Collection

In addition to reflecting late-20th and early-21st century culture in the Louisville, the local music scene has had influence beyond the Ohio Valley, making it a subject of interest outside of our immediate community. Though the LUMA project just formally began, it has been developing for years in conversations between archivists Heather Fox, Carrie Daniels, Elizabeth Reilly, and Sarah-Jane Poindexter. Then in 2012 music writer and lawyer Paul Curry donated a run of the local music zines “Hard Times” and “Burt : the official Burt the cat fanclub newsletter.” This donation of local music writings, followed by the untimely passing of three major contributors to the music scene – Jason Noble, Jon Cook, John Kampschaefer – all within a year, the LUMA team felt a sense of urgency to officially launch the project.

Materials donated to this project will be professionally preserved, organized, described, and made accessible to students, scholars and the general public. LUMA project archivists will digitize select materials and make them available online via the Libraries Digital Collections.  Items that are not digitized will be described and be discoverable through ASC’s website and may be accessed through the ASC research room on the lower level of Ekstrom library, Monday through Friday 8am-5pm.  Ultimately, the Louisville Underground Music Archive will be an authoritative and comprehensive research collection freely available to the community and preserved for future generations.  ASC plans to use collection materials to engage the public with Louisville music history through the curation of exhibits and other programming.

Keep up with the LUMA project on Facebook and stay tuned for the launch of the digital collections website as well as a community donation/archiving event in 2014. For more information or to make a donation, please contact the LUMA project at

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