This exciting exploration to unearth the Library’s special collections started in 2013 with Songs in the Key of Los Angeles. For over a year, Professor Josh Kun, director of the Popular Music Project at University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, and a team of his students combed through the Library’s approximately 50,000-piece sheet music collection.

They discovered a wealth of loose sheet music (i.e., individual pieces not bound in a book) from the 1850s through the 1950s that spans genres from pop to jazz, Mexican folk to blues, offering a never-before-seen portrait of Los Angeles history and culture through the music that helped to imagine it.

This collection featured songs about Los Angeles or Southern California that were written by key regional songwriters and personalities, or published by one of the many independent music publishers who were an integral part of Los Angeles entertainment and business industries at the turn of the 20th century. Through the remarkable sheet music cover art, we can see a city being shaped and made in dynamic full color design, from Mission myths to citrus utopias, from boosterism to beaches, from the rise of the railroad to the rise of Hollywood.

Songs in the Key of Los Angeles culminated in an eponymous book published by Angel City Press, an exhibition of selected artwork covers in the First Floor Gallery of Central Library, and several public performances of the music as originally written and remixed by contemporary artists.

In 2015, we will turn our attention to the next topic in this series, To Live and Dine in L.A. This project examines the Library’s vast collection of historical menus through the publication of the first-ever book exploring the long history of restaurants and menus in Los Angeles, a major exhibition in the Getty Gallery of Central Library, and diverse public programs throughout the city that will all help raise awareness of food politics in contemporary Los Angeles.

Mining the Collections is supported by the generosity of:

  • Steve and Judith Krantz Foundation

To learn more about funding opportunities for Mining the Collections, please contact Imani Harris, Senior Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, at 213.292.6243 or [email protected].

Top of Page