The Janis Ian Archives Fund: A Unique Resource for Music History Research

https://www.berea.edu/give/jiaf/

Berea College, a unique institution known for its inclusive mission and work-to-learn program, is set to house a one-of-a-kind collection that will offer an unprecedented look into the music industry. The Janis Ian Archives Fund is a project dedicated to preserving and showcasing the life and career of Janis Ian, a prolific singer-songwriter and feminist icon.

The archives are a treasure trove of music history, featuring a wide array of materials from Ian’s career. From her publishing, recording, and live performance contracts to her copyright paperwork and financial negotiations, the archives will provide an in-depth look at the workings of the music industry from the mid-1960s onwards.

Notably, the collection also includes personal items such as Ian’s correspondence with other musical artists, famous friends, and collaborators, as well as her song notebooks, diaries, and a journal that includes her first poem, written at age ten. It even traces back to her grandparents’ immigration papers from 1916, offering a glimpse into her family history and the journey of her 1937 Martin D-18 guitar.

What sets the Janis Ian Archives apart is their accessibility. While many archives are restricted to scholars and Ph.D. candidates, Ian has stipulated that her records remain open to the public. This decision aligns with her belief in Berea College’s mission and reflects her commitment to sharing knowledge as a gift.

Janis Ian’s music career spans decades, marked by sold-out concerts both domestically and internationally. She is known for her socially significant songs and has won two Grammy awards, one in 1975 for “At Seventeen” and the second in 2013, in the Best Spoken Word category for her autobiography, “Society’s Child.” She has received a total of ten nominations in eight different categories.

Despite receiving offers for her archives, Ian chose to donate all materials to Berea College without compensation, illustrating her strong belief in the institution. The Janis Ian Archives, set to open in 2024, is an embodiment of Ian’s commitment to sharing her journey and insights with the world.

To support the preservation, cataloging, and display of these priceless items, contributions to The Janis Ian Archives can be made through the fund or by contacting Teresa Kash Davis at daviste@berea.edu or 859-985-3132. Monetary and non-monetary contributions are equally welcomed.

The Janis Ian Archives Fund at Berea College promises to be a vital resource for music history research, offering a unique behind-the-curtain view of the music industry and a testament to Janis Ian’s remarkable career.


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I always like junkyards. All this metal piled up – they’re filled with pathos, those places. Much more pathos than most of the music I’ve heard. You look at it, and there’s more feeling, even though it’s depressing, than there is in a lot of music I hear these days. A junkyard is what it is, whereas listening to a record by, say, Styx, is something else.Tom Verlaine

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