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New Caffè Lena Digital Archival Database Reveals Treasure Trove of Music History and Features the Caffe Lena Colelction from the Beatrice Sweeney Archives

Saratoga Springs, NY: February, 2014

Q: What has 11,000 items, 54 years of history, rare images of Bob Dylan and original recordings of Pete Seeger?

A: The Caffè Lena Collection, a brand new archival database featuring rare photos and recordings of Pete Seeger and other 1960s folk singers, now searchable online via the Library of Congress at http://caffelenahistory.org/collection

In January 2013 The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approved a grant to arrange, describe, and catalog significant archival collections that comprise the complete Caffè Lena Collection, a unique record of a major 20th century American music venue. The digitization of the material was made possible through generous funding from the EMC Corporation.

The complete Caffè Lena Collection include 700 hours of recorded performances restored and digitized by Magic Shop Studio (held by the Library of Congress), six boxes of founder Lena Spencer’s original papers and her extensive collection of performer files, (held by the Saratoga Springs History Museum), the Lively Lucy’s Coffeehouse Collection, an important student-run coffeehouse, (held by Skidmore College), and 7,000 period photographs made at Caffè Lena between 1960 and 1968 by legendary photographer Joe Alper (held by the Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC).

The completion of this project coincides with the recent publication of a book “Caffè Lena: Inside America’s Legendary Folk Music Coffeehouse”, and a companion CD box set – both recently featured in the New York Times, People Magazine, TIME, BuzzFeed, Mojo, and GRAMMY Week in Los Angeles – together with a traveling exhibition and an educational website.

Caffè Lena embodied the cultural forces and aesthetic expression that defined the 1960s folksong revival movement. A small, live-performance venue that continues to thrive and to evolve after fifty-four years, Caffè Lena’s comprehensive history is a valuable primary resource for scholars and writers focusing on this groundbreaking era in the story of American music. The Caffè Lena Collection piqued the interest and earned the support of the GRAMMY Foundation, the New York Council for the Humanities and Director Martin Scorsese.

The Caffè Lena Collection online database is now publicly available at http://caffelenahistory.org/collection for research and licensing requests, and is represented in scholarly search engines including the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Saratoga History Museum.


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