There's an interesting piece by Emma Townshend, daughter of Pete, in today's Times, worrying that - because pop memorabilia collections tend to dissipated, the future might not be great for future archivists:
Landfill, mostly, we guess.
Townshend was inspired by a visit to France:
Hmm. The daughter of Pete Townshend suggesting the model to follow might be a daughter of a rock star carving a niche for herself as her father's archivist.
The introduction to the story makes a quite alarming claim:
although, it turns out, this isn't quite true:
“Yet we have infinitely more documented evidence for Handel, who lived in this house from 1723 to 1759, than we do for Jimi Hendrix,” Bardwell explains.
That would seem to be suggesting not that there's less documentary evidence about Hendrix life than that of Handel, just less at that particular house. Which might be sad, but is less alarming.
Townshend pere explains that a lot of the problem is that rock didn't seek to leave any traces:
We're not so sure that things are quite as grim as Emma paints it - she's quite disdainful about the Hard Rock style of collecting, but the desire to fill awful burger bars with old guitars and stage costumes has given a value to a lot of material which would otherwise, in all likelihood, have disappeared; there are more collections and holdings than you might expect.
The real problem is knowing what we should be preserving. It's impossible to retain everything - you only have to visit those dingy flats full of piles of newspapers to know where that madness lays. Pete Townshend does:
So what do you keep? How do you know if, fifty years hence, a ticket to a Hoosiers gig is going to have more value than a Kate Nash set list?
Preserving the music might be seen as being the first priority: Townshend visits the Sound Archive:
A collection of NMEs which dates back 26 years before the first issue is quite impressive. But you've got to love a man whose job involves gathering Fierce Panda records.
Emma suggests that, perhaps, we need a proper national collection on the model of the Lottery funded writer's archives. It's not a bad idea. If only we weren't pissing away all the lottery money on the Olympics.