The National Jazz Archive is the UK’s research and information centre for the history of jazz and related music. It is freely available to all who wish to explore its collections for inspiration, learning, and enjoyment.
Our holdings comprise comprehensive book and periodical collections, personal archive collections, concert brochures and posters, photographs, correspondence, and a wide variety of related ephemera and memorabilia.
The National Jazz Archive is a registered charity (No. 327894).
The mission of the Archive is to document, preserve and make accessible the past, present and future of jazz and related music.
The objectives of the National Jazz Archive are to
- Collect materials documenting the UK’s jazz heritage
- Preserve our holdings to professional standards
- Develop more representative and inclusive collections
- Facilitate the study of jazz history, heritage and culture
- Engage a wide range of communities through our collections and activities
Scope of the collections
The National Jazz Archive has a national remit, and collects materials documenting all aspects of the UK’s jazz heritage.
We recognise that UK jazz sits within an international context, and therefore collect material from other countries. The materials collected span the complete history of jazz up to the present day.
When selecting new items for the collection we consider the potential for research, education at all levels, and our widening participation programme.
We seek to acquire the widest possible range of materials to engage with and inspire all of our audiences.
We aim to collect with due regard to other institutions that actively acquire materials, and we seek to work cooperatively with regional and local repositories .
We collect manuscript scores or scores in the process of composition, as they represent evidence of a musician’s life and work. When assessing completed scores, we consider the context, provenance and research value, in line with our selection criteria.
We may keep manuscripts within the Archive or suggest a relevant depository where they can be used to best advantage. All transfers are fully documented.
We recognise the importance of oral history in the communication of jazz history and ideas and its ability to bring history to life through narrative stories and anecdotes. We aim to build a collection of oral histories in line with our objectives.
It is not our standard policy to collect 3-dimensional objects such as musical instruments. However, we will consider potential deposits on an individual basis and assess them based on their value for research and the study of jazz history and music.
We do not collect sound recordings but work closely with the British Library Sound Archive, which collects records, CDs, tapes and videos, as well as unpublished recordings. We have a video/DVD collection.
The National Jazz Archive collects anything that is written about or relates to the story of jazz or blues, whether published or in manuscript.
This includes personal and organisational archives, books, periodicals (including non-English language journals), scores, concert brochures and programmes, posters and other advertising material, letters, photographs, artistic material such as drawings, material related to broadcasting and discography, and any memorabilia and ephemera with jazz associations.
Appraisal, de-accession and disposal of materials
We encourage potential donors to gift materials to help support the Archive’s mission. We appraise donated materials to assess their relevance, historical value, and the extent of any duplication with our existing collections.
Collections may be weeded before accessioning in line with our objectives. We do not normally keep multiple duplicates of printed material such as books, magazines, or concert brochures.
Duplicate items that are not required may be disposed of, and may be sold to raise funds for the Archive, with the prior written agreement of the depositor.
We welcome donations of commercially available recordings that can be sold to support the Archive.
De-accessioning items will be considered where they no longer meet the criteria for acquisitions following a review or change of the collections policy.
To qualify for inclusion in our collections an item or work must meet at least one, and preferably more than one, of the following criteria:
- Historical – the item contributes significantly to the history or appreciation of jazz; it provides evidence of the development of jazz music; or has significant value as a representation of social, cultural or political events as they relate to jazz and related music;
- Impact – collections of individuals or organisations which had a significant impact on jazz, locally, nationally, or internationally;
- Technical – the work illustrates development of musical technique, exemplifies the jazz idiom and increases the understanding of the development of jazz in all its variations;
- Completion – the item completes or enhances the value of materials already in our collections;
- Uniqueness – particular value will be placed on items that are unique;
- Research – particular value will be placed on items with research potential.
The National Jazz Archive has an acquisition form, which is used to help assess the relevance and importance of a collection.
The National Jazz Archive considers preservation and access to be equally important.
Measures will be taken to protect items from damage or loss. In some cases, copies will be made in order to meet access requirements and to reduce the risk of loss or damage to preserved material.
We seek to widen access by a programme of digitisation, prioritising key collections and materials that are highly used or in vulnerable condition.
The Archive aims to make accessible as much material as possible within the limits of copyright and preservation restrictions.
This will include exhibiting materials and providing an online catalogue, a research room facility, and volunteering opportunities.
Methods of acquisition
The National Jazz Archive encourages the gifting or bequest of material by organisations and individuals.
Under some circumstances it may be possible to accept material deposited on loan.
Copyright and rights
The National Jazz Archive seeks to acquire materials with minimum restrictions on use.
Uses may include research, education, exhibition, and online access. It may also mean commercial interests, where appropriate.
Depositors who own the copyright of material which they are depositing as a gift are asked to complete a form assigning copyright to the Archive. Gifting the copyright allows us to use the materials to the best advantage and may enable us to gain an income to help fund our work.
Loan of material
The Archive will loan material to recognised institutions and organisations for bone fide educational purposes, subject to our security and preservation conditions being met, and on completion of a loan agreement form.
All requests will be considered on an individual basis.
Review of policy
This policy was discussed and agreed at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the National Jazz Archive held at Birmingham City University on 11 May 2019.
It will be reviewed no less than once every three years.
 Other institutions include the Altman-Koss Video Jazz Archive at Brighton University, the American Music Collection at Exeter University, the BBC Archive, Birmingham City University, the British Library, Jazz Heritage Wales, Leeds College of Music, the Scottish Jazz Archive, and The Jazz Centre UK.
Back to Our research policy