Digital Collections

Explore a growing selection of our unique or unusual material, as well as information about collections, that is freely accessible online.

Most of our digitized collections are hosted by University of Wisconsin Digitized Collections under the name Mills Music Library Digital Collections. There, you can search the collections globally or individually.

Local Centers/Global Sounds : Historic Recordings and Midwestern Musical Vernaculars

Local Centers/Global Sounds (LCGS) is an umbrella collection of dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, political anthems, and recitations prevalent in the Upper Midwest. It includes 78-rpm recordings produced for immigrant, ethnic, and indigenous audiences by American companies in the first half of the 20th century; and more than 700 hours of original field and home recordings from the 1950s through the 1990s captured in kitchens and parlors, in churches and halls, amidst festivals and in professional studios.Includes extensive interviews of many performers. Collections include audio, photographs, field notes, and tape indices.

Individual sub-collections within the Local Centers/Global Sounds Collection are highlighted below. The collection can also be searched as whole here.

Curriculum Resources for Teachers

A series of curriculum units for schools are available here. These units offer an opportunity for both music and regular classroom teachers to tap into the historic, rare, and culturally diverse collection of Wisconsin music housed with the Local Centers/Global Sounds digital archives.

78-RPM Recordings Collection (LCGS)

The 78-RPM Recordings Collection is comprised of over 2,400 78-rpm recordings commercially produced for immigrant, ethnic, indigenous, and regional audiences by American record companies in the first half of the 20th century. The record companies range from big labels with an international presence such as Columbia, Odeon and Victor; to local labels throughout the Upper Midwest with a small but focused audience.

Ach Ya!: the Story of German Music in Wisconsin (LCGS)

The “Ach Ya!: The Story of German Music in Wisconsin” Collection presents historical images from the nineteenth through the late twentieth century that evoke the long-standing heritage and rich diversity of Wisconsin’s German musical traditions, especially in German-American communities in Calumet, Dodge, Marathon, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Sheboygan counties.

American Sacred Music Collection

The American Sacred Music Collection includes about 500 American imprints dating from 1786 to the early 20th century. Included are works of Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Hastings, Lowell Mason, William Bradbury, Joshua Leavitt, Ira Sankey, and others. Some volumes from this collection are available online.

Americana Sheet Music Collection

The Americana Sheet Music Collection contains some 7,000 songs published in 19th-century America. The collection principally contains music from the popular tradition, although that distinction is a blurry one until ca. 1865. Midwest publishers are well represented, as is music by women composers.

Arnold Munkel Collection (LCGS)

Arnold Munkel (1918-2003) was a mechanic and welder from Spring Grove, Minnesota. Beginning in the 1960s, and especially after his retirement, he devoted much of his time to documenting Norwegian-American folk and old-time music in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. He recorded home parties, private events, public and festival performances, and a few non-musical events such as interviews and family reunions.

Bruce Bollerud Collection (LCGS)

Bruce Bollerud (1934-2020) was a professional musician in the Madison, Wisconsin area from the 1950s-2000s. He played bandoneon, piano accordion, jug, and trombone with a number of local bands, notably the Goose Island Ramblers and the Good Time Band. Throughout his career, Bollerud amassed a collection of materials that document his professional activities as a musician as well as a special education teacher. Sound recordings include Goose Island Ramblers rehearsal tapes, performances, house parties, live concerts and radio appearances. Source material is from the Bruce Bollerud collection (1919-2009 (bulk 1960-2009).

Civil War Band Collection : 1st Brigade Band of Brodhead, Wisconsin

The Civil War Band Collection was started when, in 1858, a group of citizens of Brodhead, Wisconsin, decided to form a brass band. They initially called themselves the Brodhead Tin Band, from the set of inexpensive tin instruments that they purchased. Soon, they purchased a set of brass instruments, however, and became known as the Brodhead Brass Band, or “B.B.B.” Under that name, they performed at the debate between presidential candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on 27 August 1858 at Freeport, Illinois. During the Civil War, they served the Union in the 1st Brigade.

The original manuscripts reside in the Department of Special Collections. A microform copy, Civil War band books, can be accessed at the Music Library.

Cuca Records Database

The Cuca Records Database provides discographical information for all known LPs and 45s held by the Music Library that were released by Cuca Records of Sauk City, Wisconsin, and its affiliated labels. Many of these recordings are available in the Music Library.

Down Home Dairyland Collection (LCGS)

Between 1989 and 1992, folklorists Jim Leary and Rick March produced and hosted “Down Home Dairyland,” a radio series that explored the traditional and ethnic music of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. The show combined sound recordings, interviews with musicians and commentary by the hosts. The Down Home Dairyland Collection features original photographs, notes, and 80 field recordings of musical performances and interviews that provided source material for the programs.

Ethnic Music in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan (LCGS)

The Ethnic Music of Northern Wisconsin and Michigan Collection documents traditional music of European immigrant communities in the northern tier of counties in Wisconsin and the western counties of the upper peninsula of Michigan along Lake Superior’s south shore. The collection reflects the mix of musical traditions among the region’s Cornish, Bohemian, Croatian, Finnish, French-Canadian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Irish, Slovenian, Slovak, Swedish, Swiss, and Ukrainian immigrant singers, instrumentalists, dance hall veterans, and home performers.

Fiddlers contest scrapbook (LCGS)

A scrapbook containing newspaper clippings placed on 47 leaves, relating to fiddling contests held from May 1927-February 1928 in various locations in Iowa (37 locations), Minnesota (14 locations), Wisconsin (Galesville), and South Dakota (Rapid City); many events hosted by W. (Wesley) Mitchell.

Folksongs of Another America (LCGS)

The hardcover edition of James P. Leary’s Folksongs of Another America included five CDs and a DVD, received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Notes, and sold out within a year of its publication. Thanks to a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Press and the University of Wisconsin Libraries, sound files for each of the five CDs—as well as the film Alan Lomax Goes North, co-produced with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress—are now accessible and downloadable through the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

German-American Music Project Collection (LCGS)

The German-American Music Project Collection documents significant aspects of German-American music and related cultural traditions in Wisconsin, mainly in Calumet, Dodge, Marathon, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Milwaukee counties. Materials include field reports, sound recordings, tape indices, slides, and other documentation generated and collected during the project.

In Tune With Tradition: Wisconsin Folk Musical Instruments (LCGS)

In Tune With Tradition: Wisconsin Folk Musical Instruments is a collection of materials from field work conducted in 1989 that focused on two dozen Wisconsin folk musical instruments, their makers, and the represented ethnic and musical traditions (e.g., lumberjack, Woodland Indian, Norwegian, Puerto Rican, Hmong). The collection includes audio of interviews with folk musical instrument makers conducted by folklorist James P. Leary, photographs by Leary and Lewis Koch, and the 72-page exhibition catalogue.

John Berquist Slovenian Recordings Collection (LCGS)

John Berquist (1947-2016) was a musician, composer, storyteller and folklorist from Eveleth, Minnesota. He wrote and sang songs about the people of the Iron Range area of Minnesota: miners, lumberjacks, and immigrants from Scandinavian and Slavic regions. The collection features interviews and performances recorded for the Slovenian Button Box Accordion Project in 1984, 32 field recordings with accompanying notes, and 55 photographs and maps.

Leizime Brusoe (1870-1949) Scrapbook (LCGS)

An extraordinary fiddler, Leizime Brusoe performed from the 1880s to the 1940s, from Canadian dancing schools to radio and live shows in the Midwest, and lastly for barn dances in Wisconsin’s Rhinelander area. With photos, newspaper clippings, programs and business letters, these pages give a glimpse of Leizime Brusoe’s life circa 1925 to 1935.

Leonard Finseth Collection (LCGS)

Leonard Finseth was a Norwegian-American folk fiddler, farmer, and factory worker in Mondovi, Wisconsin. The collection consists primarily of home recordings Finseth made of himself often with accompanying musicians mostly recorded in the 1970s and 80s. The collection also includes photographs and correspondence.

LeRoy Larson Collection (LCGS)

LeRoy Larson documented the traditional dance music of Scandinavians, chiefly Norwegians, in Minnesota with some overlap into western Wisconsin and northern Iowa. The collection includes his field recordings, along with accompanying documentation; several folios of fiddle tunes composed or transcribed by Otto Rindlisbacher; as well as private recordings of musicians including Leonard Finseth. Source material is from the LeRoy Larson collection, 1931-1993 (bulk 1969-1993).

Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings

The Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings is unique in its comprehensive scale and scope. Over 9,000 recorded performances on 78-rpm discs and cylinders include Yiddish theater, popular and traditional music, cantorial songs, klezmer music, poetry, drama, and event ballads from locations as diverse as the United States, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Israel.

The contents offer an unparalleled audio entrée into the vibrant, fascinating cultural practices of early- mid 20th century Yiddish life.

Paramount Records Discography

The Paramount Records Discography contains information about Paramount Records and affiliated labels produced by the New York Recording Laboratories (NYRL) of Port Washington, Wisconsin. All records included in the discography are in the collections of the Wisconsin Music Archives of the Music Library.

Polish Folk Song Collection (LCGS)

The Polish Folk Song Collection resulted from a two-year study (1946-1948) overseen by Professor Edmund I. Zawacki of the Department of Slavic Languages, University of Wisconsin documenting rural Polish immigrant communities in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. The materials consist of sound recordings and photographs obtained from field work by Harriet Pawlowska in and around Independence, Wisconsin.

Popular Sheet Music Collection

The Popular Sheet Music Collection consists of popular song sheets published in the United States since 1900. Titles are entered into the database on an ongoing basis. Some items in the database include images of the sheets.

Tams-Witmark Collection

The Tams-Witmark Collection comprises some 37,000 items, representing more than 1,600 titles from the musical stage in America from approximately 1800 to the 1920s. Materials are from the entire range of the musical stage tradition: grand opera, operetta, musical comedy and revue, minstrel show, and burlesque.

The collection is particularly strong in the areas of piano-vocal scores and prompt books, but many titles also include orchestral parts, full scores, choral parts, vocal parts, libretti, stage manager guides, and dialogue parts, as well as production materials such as scenery, lighting, and costume plots.

Scanned images from collection are added to the database on an ongoing basis; the materials are fully cataloged and may be searched in the Library Catalog.

Visual Materials in Mills Music Library

The Visual Materials collection of photographs primarily of musicians and music-related subjects dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. In addition to photographs, there are postcards, lithographic prints, advertising and promotional materials, posters, and other types of ephemera.
New images are added on a regular basis.

Joseph Philbrick Webster Music Manuscripts

Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819, New Hampshire-1875, Elkhorn, Wisconsin) composed music for ballads, hymns, patriotic drama, and a cantata, and, in all, published fully 1,000 songs.

Among his most popular compositions were “Lorena,” sung by both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War, and “In the sweet bye and bye.”

Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946

The Wisconsin Folksong Database represents materials from two collections housed in three discrete, but closely related, repositories. The Collection reflects and documents the state’s colorful pattern of immigration and occupational development during those years.

It includes Wisconsin field recordings, notes, and photographs made by UW-Madison faculty member Helene Stratman-Thomas as part of the Wisconsin Folk Music Recording Project, co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the Library of Congress during the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1946. It also contains recordings collected by song catcher Sidney Robertson Cowell during the summer of 1937 for the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Administration.

Related materials: Helene Stratman-Thomas Collection (Mills Music Library, MML 001) ; Leland A. Coon papers, 1923-1961 (UW-Madison Archives, Series 7/24/15/1-3 44N1)

Wisconsin Sheet Music Database

The Wisconsin Sheet Music Collection contains music written by Wisconsin composers, published by Wisconsin publishers, or pieces whose subject matter relates to Wisconsin.

The publications date from the late 1850s, extend to the present, and include principally, but not exclusively, popular music traditions. While the majority of pieces are songs, the database also includes music for piano, instrumental music, and choral music. English, of course, predominates, but a significant number of German language items can be found. Most items are published.

While each item in the index retains a strong Wisconsin connection, many of the titles were published elsewhere in the United States and some were published simultaneously in Germany.

New titles are added on a regular basis.