WACO, Texas – A new state-of-the art listening center and Gospel music archive now has a permanent collection on Baylor’s campus.
Journalism Professor Robert Darden’s idea to preserve Black Gospel music started in 2006, when The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project was launched. It launched with limited access through digitization – but 15 years later, it has a space accessible in Moody Memorial Library for others to experience.
During the unveiling dedication ceremony, Darden fought back tears sharing his journey and passion for Gospel music – and how it was cast away for centuries.
“After I had written my first book on the topic, People Get Ready A New History of Black Gospel Music, I was so angry, because a lot of the music I was writing about, I couldn’t hear. It wasn’t available,” Darden said.
Darden doesn’t want the current generation or the ones to follow to have the same experience. Students and others can visit the space housing LP’s, cassettes, 45’s, compact discs and an isolation pod.
“That was as far as I thought. I wanted to rant,” Darden said. “Now 15 years later, to see it become the premier center for the saving of black music and preaching in the world, with a collection larger than the Library of Congress, I couldn’t have possibly dreamed that big.”
Carlton Reed, a former member of The Zion Jubilees, had the same sentiments – browsing the listening center and seeing his work on display.
“I just wouldn’t have dreamed it at all. That this much material would be here right at me, and I live in Bryan,” Reed said. “I just never thought would be in all of these places.”
Reed says he toured for over 60 years, starting at the age of 15. He wants his music to impact others the same way it did when he sung it.
“I hope that God is in this, and we could not do it without him,” Reed said.
During the ceremony, there were musical selections by Baylor University’s Black Gospel Choir, “Heavenly Voices.”
Remarks from Baylor Provost Nancy Brickhose and others who have been a part of the project over the years all echo this space will impact generations now, and for those to follow.
Baylor Digitization & Preservation Director Darryl Stuhr says this has been a long time coming.
“I think it is a great next step in this project,” Stuhr said. “We’ve been digitizing and placing online, but now to have a physical space that people can come visit, I think that just takes it up a notch.”
The archive has over 14,000 pieces – currently making it the largest accessible collection.
The Gospel Archive & Listening Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The isolation pod is available by appointment only.
For more information, you can visit Baylor’s Libraries website.