On November 9, Aly Gardner-Shelby delivered three carefully curated boxes of materials collected from closets, filing cabinets, and garages to the archives at the University of Washington. Taken together, these boxes contain records, programs, newsletters and other ephemera from the earliest days of the Seattle Recorder Society.

Aly is an SRS member and past president of Early Music Seattle who retired from full time work a couple of years ago. While serving as president of EMS, she assisted with their search for a new executive director. In talking with Naomi Schiff, a long-time member of both organizations, she discovered that Naomi had a collection of materials from EMS’ past. This got Aly started down the path of archiving EMS materials for the Special Collections at the UW libraries.

Members Night programs from years past

“Naomi nudged me toward asking how we could save these materials for posterity, and she helped me connect with Anne Jenner, the Curator of the Pacific Northwest Collection at the UW library.” Aly went on to explain that the timing for EMS was particularly good because of the transition to a new executive: “It was timely to sort through the materials and decide what to keep. “

Originally from Ireland, Aly has an archeology degree from Trinity College, Dublin, so she was able to come to the project with some useful professional skills. Early in the SRS project, Aly was assisted by Peter Seibert. According to Peter, “As Aly was finishing up the archiving project for EMS, she became interested in the interface between EMS and SRS, and she again nudged me to help. I had a lot of material myself, but Hanan Bell had several boxes of material that included a complete set of past newsletters. I took them away and hoped to forward the materials to the SRS archive. Things moved slowly, and I began to read the materials that covered the period from the early 1950s until 1977. This inspired me to write up the events that documented how the large and enthusiastic membership of the SRS very naturally encouraged the founding of the Early Music Guild, now called Early Music Seattle. Those comments are included in the archives for both EMS and SRS.”

Aly Gardner-Shelby sorting and organizing archive materials

The gathering of materials for the SRS archive spanned several weeks during which board members and others brought things to Aly. Part of the process was to sort through materials and make decisions about what should be included. Among the chores that Aly took on was redacting private personal information from newsletters and other things. “Just scanning rosters and removing contact information took at least three days,” she noted. In all, she estimates that she spent more than 44 hours on the SRS project. This included many tasks such as the collecting of physical materials, sorting and collating physical files, uploading digital files, indexing, and delivery to the UW. Aly started this hands-on work in in September, finishing in early November.

SRS Music Director Vicki Boeckman contributed a letter to the archive as well. She wrote, “We are delighted and honored to be included in this important archival project. The Seattle Recorder Society is a vibrant organization that holds a special place in the fabric of musical arts in the Pacific Northwest. I am honored to have stepped into the role of Artistic Director as successor to our founder, Peter Seibert.

“The recorder is often an instrument that gets overlooked in favor of popular orchestral instruments and has suffered a false stigma of being merely a beginner’s instrument as a springboard to a “real instrument”. Our community is strong and diverse – at the time of this writing we can boast 85 members. Many have contributed time, talent and expertise to bring us where we are today, and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to archive our materials in the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections, so they can be accessed by researchers and recorder enthusiasts well into the future.”

Records and documents date from 1954-2023. Content is described as follows: “The collection includes electronic and physical files consisting of ephemera; correspondence and program materials from the bi-annual Port Townsend Workshop and from the annual Members’ Night; sheets of music; board and organizational documents; published articles.”

SRS members owe a debt of gratitude to Aly for her hard work and expertise in bringing this project through all the necessary steps. The following members also contributed to the project: Hanan Bell, Vicki Boeckman, Virginia Felton, Ellis Hillinger, Peter Seibert, Naomi Shiff. William (Bill) Stickney. Laura Townsend. Molly Warner, Mike Woolf.

Members who went through stacks and boxes of papers often found much to reflect on and ponder—tidbits from old newsletters, Members’ Night programs, lists of music for playing sessions and rosters containing names of many members who are still active. Here are a few images from archive contents. Click any image to enlarge.