Our collections

The collections of the National Jazz Archive are comprehensive and ever-expanding.

Our on-going objectives for these collections include cataloguing and conserving, and to increase free accessibility through digitisation. We are grateful to Heritage Lottery Funding for its important contribution to this.

Many photographs, journals, posters and programmes are now freely available to view here on our website.  You can also search our complete catalogue, including books and other items that cannot be accessed on line, which may be viewed here.

 

We're here to help

Many of our holdings have not yet been catalogued, or digitised, so a visit to the Archive, or contact by email or phone, may be the best way to find what you are looking for.

Our volunteers are always on hand to help

We are always pleased to help visitors explore the Archive and to answer questions about jazz and our collections. If you are planning to visit the Archive at Loughton, or our satellite collection at Birmingham, then we suggest you contact us by phone or email first to confirm the arrangements and our availability.

We will also be able to advise you regarding the location of any material in which you are interested. 

We are often asked about jazz music recordings. This is not within the remit of the National Jazz Archive, but recordings can be found within the British Library's world-famous collection of commercial disks, tapes of radio broadcasts, and rare or unpublished recordings. More information about their collection can be found here.

Please note that the materials in the Archive are available for reference only. You are welcome to read or examine any item that we hold, but these may not be taken out of the Archive.

 

Photographs

The Archive holds many thousands of photos taken by musicians, professional photographers and enthusiasts, of musicians performing in clubs, festivals and concerts, and offstage. 

Our photographic collections include those taken by Brian Foskett, Brian O'Connor, George Webb and others.

Several hundred photographs were scanned and digitised as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund project The Story of British Jazz, and can be viewed here.  We also continue to catalogue and scan new collections that we have received since the end of the project.

Louis Armstrong relaxing backstage in London 1962

 Louis Armstrong relaxing backstage at the Finsbury Park Astoria, London, in 1962

Photograph by Brian Foskett

Books

We have more than 4,000 books on jazz and related subjects, which are available for reference in the Archive. These include: biographies and autobiographies; reference books; discographies; critical works, reviews and histories; and record guides.

We aim to acquire all new books on jazz and blues that are published in the UK, and we are very grateful to the many authors and publishers who donate copies of their new titles to us.

Book shelf

Come and look through our range of over 4,000 books

 

Journals, magazines and newsletters

The Archive's journal collection is of international importance, and is of particular value to researchers.

We hold full or partial runs of more than 800 journals, magazines and newsletters on jazz, blues and related music. We have all the key English language journals, such as Melody Maker, Downbeat, Jazz Journal, Blues Unlimited, Blues World, JazzWise and Crescendo. 

We also have a huge range of rare newsletters and specialist magazines stored at the Archive in Loughton. Copies of many foreign language journals are also available to view at the archive maintained by our partner Birmingham City University.

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund grant that we received in 2011, we have scanned and digitised 30 journals and magazines, most of which are fully accessible on this website in both fully searchable pdf and OCR-text format.

These include long-running titles such as Jazz News, Crescendo, Jazz UK and Storyville, and also rare, short-lived titles such as Swing Music (1935–6) and Jazz Illustrated (1949–50). Other titles can be accessed in printed form or online in the Archive.


Concert programmes and posters

Programmes and posters are evocative records of events and performances, reflecting as they do the designs and fashions of the period.

Many of the copies in the Archive were donated by jazz enthusiasts who saved them at the time they attended the event. Programmes for hundreds of concerts and festivals are held in the Archive. Some of the most interesting have been scanned and digitised and can be viewed here

Programme from the Jazz at the Philharmonic UK tour of 1959

The programme from the Jazz at the Philharmonic UK tour in 1959

 

Personal papers and letters

The Archive holds collections of personal papers from many musicians, bandleaders, writers, journalists, broadcasters, club and festival organisers. These are enormously varied, and include photographs, personal papers, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, cashbooks, family history documents, publicity material, brochures, cuttings, contracts, scripts and press releases.

The papers vary greatly in extent, from a series of letters between artist and illustrator James Hall Thomson and American clarinettist Pee Wee Russell, up to the collected papers of Charles Fox, who wrote and broadcast about jazz for more than 50 years.

We also have extensive material donated by composer, pianist and bandleader Mike Westbrook, who is also one of our Patrons. These are stored at the archive of our partner Birmingham City University, along with the papers of writer and broadcaster Charles Fox.

 

Oral history

The Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, explored the investments that different generations make in promoting, performing, supporting and documenting our jazz heritage.

Interviews and reminiscences with 29 people associated with jazz in the UK were recorded and are available on this website here.

Audio equipment

Listen to our many recorded interviews

 

Visit or contact us

If you want to plan a visit or talk to us to learn more about our collection, please use this link to contact the Archive.

 

Our policies

The National Jazz Archive strongly promotes and supports research of, and access to, our resources. Details of our research policy can be read here. and the collections policy here.

 

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