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Audiovisual collections: Purches record collection

The State Library of South Australia's audiovisual collection was established in the 1970s. It now includes all analogue and digital formats.

The collection

The Purches Collection consists of more than 6000 78rpm recordings of mainly American popular music and jazz from the 1920s to the 1950s. It was donated to the State Library of South Australia in 1977 by the wife of the late Mr John Purches. Mr Purches spent more than 40 years building this collection.

John Purches' primary interest was Bing Crosby records. He was a founding member of The Crosby Club of Australia, and he compiled one of the finest Crosbyana collections in the world. The Purches Collection is believed to include one of the largest collections of original Bing Crosby pressings, featuring many test prints, acetates, unreleased alternate takes, radio shows and interviews. There are also many recordings by other 'crooners' such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Fred Astaire. A significant number of legitimate jazz recordings include artists such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, the Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman and 'Fats' Waller. Australian jazz greats featured in the collection include the pioneer Graham Bell, Jim Davidson, and South Australia's own Dave Dallwitz.

A complete alphabetical list of artists and performers is available

Access to the collection

The Purches Collection is represented by a single collection-level catalogue entry on the Library database which gives a brief overview. All major artists and performers can be identified on the alphabetical artists list. Collection strengths are indicated by numbers of titles. Detailed catalogue records of every recording are in a large card file index located in storage. Researchers may access this index with permission from Library staff.

The original recordings in the Purches Collection are not available for listening, due to their fragility and rarity. The Library does not have the equipment for the members of the community to listen to records. However, copies of the records can be heard on alternative media. A request can be made to staff for a 'use copy' to be produced. There is a turnaround time of at least 5 working days for the copying, and only a very limited number can be processed, subject to staff guidelines.

Due to the historic nature of early sound recordings, and research interest in label information and designs, the original records may be handled in the Somerville Reading Room when permission has been obtained.

Development of the collection

The Purches Collection was accepted by the Library as a donation to complement the (William) Holyoak Collection of jazz books which, at the time, was acknowledged as being the best institutional jazz reference collection in Australia. Several small anonymous donations of records have been made over the years, and in 1994 Mr Ron Harms donated a very large collection of over 50,000 sound recordings to the Library. Several thousands of these related to Purches' collecting interests, and a representative sample has been retained in the Library, particularly recordings by core jazz artists and dance bands.

The Library does not expect to develop the Purches Collection any further.