With the help of volunteer collectors, The Great 78 Project partnered with Internet Archive to release over 78,000 digitized 78 RPM record discs of early 20th century music. From blues and jazz, to classical and gospel, the freely available, growing collection has managed to preserve the sounds of brittle 78 RPM discs, some of which are so fragile, they could crumble in your hands. Made from shellac rather than vinyl, the 78 RPM records were produced between 1898 and the late 1950s, and got their name because they play at a speed around 78 revolutions per minute.
The founders of the Great 78 Project began the archive because they wanted to make “less commonly available music accessible to researchers in a format where it can be manipulated and studied without harming the physical artifacts.” The recorded music—in all its crackling glory—features the “often very prominent surface noise and imperfections,” which makes it all the more special. Among the contributing collectors is George Blood LP, the ARChive of Contemporary Music, and over 20 more institutions from around the world. The best part? The growing collection is constantly updating, with approximately 5,000 new uploads per month, so you’ll never run out of vintage tunes. When browsing the audio library, you can search by creator, collection, the year of the original recording, and more. You might even find multiple versions of the same song, as some have been recorded using different setups.
If you’re a collector, you can contribute to the project by uploading or donating your own 78 RPM records. Otherwise, just sit back, and treat yourself to a trip back in time.