After artist Audrey Hinsman and her husband retired to Santa Fe six years ago, she began looking for a volunteering opportunity. She enjoyed being a docent at the Museum of International Folk Art, but three years ago, her love of books drew her off Museum Hill and into the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library.
“I love history. I love books, and there was a need for somebody to sort things out,” she said.
The “need” was significant. More than five years ago, folklorist and aural historian Jack Loeffler donated a bounty of his taped interviews and music performances to the library, but the collection needed an online search tool to help people know what they might find. Working for two to three hours a week, Hinsman combined Loeffler’s spread sheet of each reel-to-reel tape’s contents with what he had long ago written on the box holding each one.
How big a task was that? The collection had 902 tapes that fill an entire bookcase inside the library.
“They’re a treasure,” Hinsman said. “He’s talked with people all over New Mexico. It can take me forever to do a project because I read everything. Now I can’t wait to listen to these. It’s going to be so exciting to put a voice to a name.”
Transferring Hinsman’s document to an online resource could have required yet another person to type it all in, but she had an ace in her pocket. Her son, Carl, is a computer architect for L.L. Bean in Maine, and he long-distance devised a program that uploaded it all in a flash. Better yet, the program can be used in the future, as the library moves on to Loeffler’s cassette and DAT tapes, along with his most recent recordings.
The finding aid hums with tempting listen-alongs, including interviews with authors John Nichols and Alvin Josephy, former Gov. Toney Anaya, Abiquiu hermanos, and musician Mercedes Lopéz. Patrons can listen to digitized versions of the tapes by coming into the library; putting them online is a future goal. Librarians Patricia Hewitt and Tomas Jaehn consider Hinsman’s work a huge step forward in connecting the collection with the public.
To browse the archive, click here.