“Masters of our own destiny”

cultures of preservation at the Victorian Jazz Archive in Melbourne, Australia


  • Sarah Baker Griffith University Author
  • Alison Huber RMIT University Author




cultural memory, DIY archiving, jazz preservation, social institution, vernacular knowledge


This article introduces the work of a volunteer-run, ‘DIY institution’: the Victorian Jazz Archive (VJA), located in Melbourne, Australia. This archive was set up in 1996 by a community of enthusiasts who saw a need for an archival facility to house the growing volume of jazz ephemera otherwise in danger of being lost from the public record. The VJA survives on a small budget that relies on grants, donations and membership fees, and remains open and accessible only through the generosity of an army of volunteers dedicated to preserving this music’s material history. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at the archive, including in-depth interviews with fourteen volunteers, the article explores some of the cultural and social functions of this informal institution. It describes the ways in which volunteers perceive the importance of vernacular knowledge to the task of archiving jazz, and what this might mean for the sustainability of the VJA.

Author Biographies

  • Sarah Baker, Griffith University

    Sarah Baker is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Griffith University.

  • Alison Huber, RMIT University

    Alison Huber is a Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. From 2010–12 she was a Research Fellow in the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research at Griffith University, where she remains an adjunct. Her written work can be found in numerous journals and edited collections, including Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now: Popular Music in Australia (ed. Homan and Mitchell, 2008), International Journal of Cultural Studies and Television and New Media.


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How to Cite

Baker, S., & Huber, A. (2013). “Masters of our own destiny”: cultures of preservation at the Victorian Jazz Archive in Melbourne, Australia. Popular Music History, 7(3), 263-282. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v7i3.263