May 22, 2022

Listen Online: “Dusting Off the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archives”

From The Bottom Line (University of California, Santa Barbara):

Tucked away on the third floor mountain side of the [UCSB’s Davidson Library] is the Cylinder Audio Archive, a carefully curated collection of over 19,000 historic phonograph cylinders. Invented by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s — long before CDs, cassette tapes, and vinyl records — phonograph cylinders are the earliest commercial recording medium. These hollow cylindrical objects are roughly the size of a soda can and function similarly to vinyl records, with audio engraved as grooves that can be played by a needle.

The archive offers a unique look into a little-documented era of American culture and history, with a wide variety of genres and types of recordings that trace back as early as the 1890s. The sounds, which are all available online, range from music genres such as fiddle tunes and Hawaiian music to historical speeches and sermons. Unique to the archive is its collection of commercial home recordings made by regular people, which showcase the everyday experiences of life during the 19th century.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.