The Callaway Centre

John Blacking Collection

Further information

Limited Callaway Centre Catalogue Records are available on TROVE
  • Callaway Archive

The University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archive has digitised audio examples of Venda music selected by John Blacking to accompany his book, How Musical is Man?.

One of the most important ethnomusicologists of the twentieth century, John Blacking was committed to the idea that music making is a fundamental and universal attribute of the human species.

The John Blacking Collection comprises Blacking’s original research data on African music including his diaries, field notes, audio recordings, photographic negatives, 8mm films, unpublished conference papers and published research.

Groupings of papers that have been identified within the collection are:

  • field notes, including questionnaires detailing the life and music-making of the Venda people, diaries and notebooks with stories told by the people, field recordings, transcriptions of rhythms and songs, photographs and moving images, and Blacking’s own observations and reflections
  • working notes that show the sophisticated way Blacking structured his thinking when tackling complex matters, including questions, observations and jottings
  • personal views and frank comments which give insight into his private thinking
  • published and unpublished writings, including articles and speeches delivered at academic and professional gatherings
  • administrative documents relating to his work as an editor of seminal publications and as a leading figure on many projects
  • correspondence
  • early drafts of writings showing the development of a work or an idea
  • publications

This unique collection is an internationally significant resource for both ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. The collection was donated to The Callaway Centre in 1997 by Dr Zureena Desai, Professor Blacking's widow, and constitutes a valuable and rare archive.

Extent of collection

The collection occupies 24.7 linear metres of space and spans a 35-year period. It contains approximately 1474 archival files, 141 5mm reel-to-reel tapes, 115 audio tapes, 240 vinyl LPs, 49 8mm films, 1500 visual slides, 1000 photographs, 35 notebooks and 47 manuscripts.

Status of collection

The collection was prelinminarily sorted into archival Series and partially processed as part of the Blacking Collection Project in 2006-2007.

Finding aid