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About this collection


In an effort to create the most advanced and comprehensive digital music archive in the world, the Gospel Music History Archive (GMHA) benefits greatly from the passion and expertise of its institutional partners.

In 2006, fire gutted Chicago’s historic Pilgrim Baptist Church, destroying irreplaceable documents, including the original sheet music and letters of Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father of Gospel Music.” While the tragedy deprived the world a significant part of the historic legacy of one of America’s great composers and arrangers, the event also underscored the need for the systematic collection and preservation of the history of gospel music.

The GMHA is an effort to preserve the legacy of gospel music in a state-of-the-art digital archive. The GMHA digitizes and catalogues important documents and makes them available in a searchable database to scholars, gospel artists, librarians, church historians, teachers, and anyone with Internet access. The archive contains original audio and visual video interviews, music files, publicity materials, photographs, film, scholarly articles, and analysis from academic and gospel-community-based experts. When complete, the GMHA will be the largest and most advanced digital repository for these collections in the world.


The Gospel Music History Project (The Black Voice Foundation)

The Gospel Music History Project is an advocacy and re-granting institution supporting local, regional, and national efforts to document, preserve, analyze, and publicly present the full history of gospel music in America. The GMHP builds synergistic relationships between corporations, the media, archives, historical societies, denominational bodies, and gospel music associations throughout the nation to achieve its goals. The permanent staff of the GMHP carries out its mission with the assistance of a national advisory board and five regional advisory boards. The boards are composed of performers, scholars, clergy, and industry professionals. Institutional partners of the GMHP include the University of Southern California, Indiana University, and the African American Preservation Alliance, a coalition of more than 150 museums, archives, libraries, and historic societies across the nation.

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture is a research unit of the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. CRCC investigates the civic role of religion and collaborates with congregations, scholars, funders, and faith-based organizations. CRCC is a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and innovative partnerships in the community and at the University of Southern California. The center and its affiliated scholars engage in numerous research projects on topics such as global Pentecostalism, the transmission of religious values across generations, economic research on civilizations, immigrant religion, faith-based human service provision, homelessness, and the connection between spirituality and social transformation. CRCC is also involved in the creation of visual archives, including the Gospel Music History Archive, Internet Mission Photography Archive and a selection of photographs by Jerry Berndt on religious life in Los Angeles and other cities.

The Archives of African American Music and Culture (Indiana University)

Established in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. Its collections highlight popular, religious, and classical music with genres ranging from blues and gospel to R&B and hip hop. The AAAMC also houses extensive materials related to the documentation of Black radio. The AAAMC supports the research of scholars, students, and the general public worldwide by providing access to holdings which include oral histories, photographs, musical and print manuscripts, audio and video recordings, educational broadcast programs, and the personal papers of individuals and organizations concerned with Black music. The AAAMC also invites exploration of its collections and related topics through a variety of public events, print and online publications, and pedagogical resources.

USC Libraries

The USC Libraries actively support the discovery, creation, and preservation of knowledge. The organization develops collections and services that foster and encourage the academic endeavors of faculty, students, and staff; build a community of critical consumers of information; and help develop engaged world citizens. Through these means, the USC Libraries contribute to the continued success of the University of Southern California and actively collaborate with museums, historical societies, and academic institutions on a local, national, and international level.

The USC Libraries is well positioned to build working relationships with the owners of content related to gospel music. Similar in purpose to the GMHA is the USC Libraries Digital Library. Spanning a wide range of visual media, the USC Libraries Digital Library offers digital images of drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, as well as audio and video recordings to scholars and the general public. The USC Libraries also are partners with the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive, created by Steven Spielberg to collect video testimonies from more than 52,000 Holocaust survivors.

Contribute to the Archive

The GMHA welcomes donations of gospel music materials and recordings that fall within the scope of its collection, as well as any monetary donations that can be used to preserve sacred African American music. Prospective donors should contact the GMHA project manager at or (213) 821-5568. The project manager will explain the priorities and needs of the collections.

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