The rich and soulful sounds from the "Golden Age of Gospel" (roughly 1945-1975) are distinctly African American. They are the voices of men and women who loved to sing and raise their voices in praise. Black gospel groups moved from town-to-town to raise money to live daily, and then moved on to the next church. Along their journey, they found time to record their unique renditions and compositions. This fertile musical time period in American history is a cultural snapshot revealing the depth of a people, their community, and the influence they have had on the rest of American music. These recordings; containing valuable history and culture; are rapidly disappearing and must be preserved.
This project is an ideal fit with Baylor and complements the university's Baptist heritage. Once completed, this digital audio archive will draw numerous researchers to Baylor University to listen to and research the "Golden Age of Gospel Music Archive." This archive will elevate the holdings of the already strong Crouch Fine Arts Library. The ultimate goal of the project is to preserve and store a digital copy of the audio long term, and to provide standards-based discovery tools through an online interface into a full catalog of materials, along with samples of all tracks from the audio archive. Most importantly, this beautifully sweet, vibrantly alive music will be preserved so all can enjoy, love, and learn from it for generations to come.
This project was made possible by men and women with a zeal for preserving history. When Charles Royce came across Baylor professor of journalism Robert Darden's "New York Times" op-ed of February 15, 2005, he recognized the need to preserve this important piece of history and was impressed by Professor Darden's passion. In turn, his gift to Baylor University created the Charles M. Royce Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.
In addition, the faithful support from Harold (BBA '51) and Dottie Riley of Austin continues to strengthen Baylor University's digitization efforts by equipping the Libraries with the Ray I. Riley Digitization Center, named in memory of Harold's father, and the Dottie S. Riley Conference Room. Their support has funded state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that allow the University to enhance preservation of such materials.
To expand and increase this one-of-a-kind initiative, The Prichard Family Foundation established the Lev H. Prichard III Traditional Black Music Restoration Endowed Fund in 2009. Paying tribute to Lev Prichard III, the gift embodies Lev and Ella (BA '63) Prichard's love of cultural and educational ventures.