Michigan State University

MSU Libraries Acquire 25,000-Piece Rock & Roll History and Counterculture Collection

Cindy Hunter Morgan

In a state known for rock & roll, it would seem that scholars, music lovers, and visitors should have access to a rich archive of posters, handbills, band photos, protest buttons, recordings, and underground newspapers documenting this great musical history. A treasure trove of such things will soon be available at Michigan State University Libraries, which recently acquired a 25,000-piece archive of 1960s – 1970s rock & roll history rooted in Michigan. The collection was purchased from Melissa and Jack Bodnar, who describe it as the largest and most extensive collection of its kind in the world. 

Dean of Libraries Joseph Salem said the acquisition represents the Libraries’ commitment to building collections that support specialized research. “This collection will give students, faculty, and other researchers access to rare materials that can help them think about musical history and social history in new ways,” Salem said. “Music is inexorably linked to culture, and this archive will help scholars and other visitors understand how art and history intersect. In the 60s and 70s, musicians were exploring issues of equity and inclusion that we’re still wrestling with today. In that way, this acquisition also represents the MSU Libraries’s commitment to leading meaningful initiatives in these areas.” 

The collection includes materials from the White Panther Party, an anti-racist group founded in 1968 by Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair. That party’s manifesto includes a statement, “Everything Free for Everybody.” 

 

MSU Libraries Head of Special Collections Leslie McRoberts said the White Panther statement reflects the MSU Libraries’ commitment to promoting equal access to information and spaces. “It feels particularly appropriate that this collection will now be available to the public,” McRoberts said. “The White Panther Party advocated for free access to information, and the MSU Libraries are prioritizing this issue as well. As Special Collections moves into a new decade, our goal is to expand the popular culture, comic book, and radicalism collections and to help more people discover these collections. This acquisition is aligned with that goal.”

 

Jack Bodnar spent more than 40 years building his collection, which includes original lithographs created by Carl Lundgren and Gary Grimshaw, promotional materials from the Grande Ballroom, and a complete run of the Detroit underground newspaper Fifth Estate. Bodnar studied journalism at Michigan State University. During his time at MSU, he was the music columnist for the State Newsand the Lansing State Journal. He covered events at the Brewery, a venue on Michigan Avenue known for its rock concerts. Many bands played there, including Aerosmith, Rush, and ZZ Top. He now lives in Dryden, Michigan, where he and his wife, Melissa, run the marketing firm Bodnar Creative.

 

The importance of collecting rare and special books for use as unique research tools has been recognized by the Michigan State University Libraries since its beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Honoring this commitment, Special Collections was formally established in 1962 with the charge to house special materials, as well as to build, preserve, and make accessible important research collections for educational use. Today, Special Collections holds over 450,000 printed works, numerous manuscript and archival collections, and an extensive collection of ephemera supporting research in popular culture, radicalism, comic art, and gender. Notable rare book collections include early veterinary medicine, eighteenth century British history and culture, modern American literature, cookery, and natural history. The Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world while the Radicalism Collection features extensive holdings on a wide range of political, social, and economic viewpoints. All of the materials may be seen and used in the Special Collections reading room during open hours.

 

 

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