About Our Collections

Mills Music Library, a member library of the General Library System of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the primary resource for music materials and information on the UW campus and in the state. The circulating collection contains over 250,000 books, scores, and recordings. An additional 250,000 items in all formats are contained in the Mills Music Library Special Collections. All areas of music are represented with special strengths in Americana, musical theater, recorded sound, and ethnic music.

The Mills Music Library reference collection contains some 4,000 titles, including music encyclopedias, bibliographies, discographies, library catalogues, and composer, journal, and song indexes. Reference books do not circulate.

Other campus libraries with significant music resources include the Center for Instructional Materials and Computing, which collects in the area of music education at the K-12 level , and College Library, which maintains a recreational music reading and sound recording library. In addition, the Wisconsin State Historical Society Library contains holdings in music literature, particularly writings concerning music and labor and other aspects of American music.

Wisconsin Music Archives

The Wisconsin Music Archives is a special collection housed in Mills Music Library. It contain more than 25,000 items representing all Wisconsin musical traditions and encompasses the period 1850s to the present. Strengths of the collection include published sheet music, folk and ethnic music, scores by contemporary Wisconsin composers, and recordings of state performers or issued by Wisconsin labels. Recordings in the Cuca, Paramount, and Wisconsin Folksong collections nd printed music in the Wisconsin Sheet Music collection can be searched from the Wisconsin Music Databases page.

Highlights of the Wisconsin Music Archives

  • The Civil War Band Books, 12 manuscript part books used by the 1st Brigade Band of Brodhead, Wisconsin, during the Civil War, is one of few such surviving sets. (See also www.1stbrigadeband.org.)

  • The Robert Fountain Collection comprises UW-Madison School of Music recordings of performances conducted by the legendary choral director between 1972 and 1994, primarily of the UW Concert Choir and Choral Union. The collection also includes programs, newspaper clippings, and other documents. Sound clips for a select number of performances are available on the collection’s web pages along with a detailed inventory of all performances.

  • The Helene Stratman-Thomas Collection. Between 1940 and 1946, the Wisconsin Folk Music Recording Project, co-sponsored by the UW and the Library of Congress, sent School of Music faculty member Helene Stratman-Thomas (1896–1973) on collecting expeditions around Wisconsin to record and document the folk music and folklore that reflected the colorful pattern of immigration and occupational development in the state.

    The recordings may be heard through the Wisconsin Folksong Collection. This collection documents nearly 800 performances, representing more than thirty ethnic or geographical sources.

    For more information:

Music Special Collections

Mills Music Library holds over 250,000 items in a wide variety of formats in its numerous special collections. Special collection materials may be identified by the location “Music Locked Case,” “Tams-Witmark / Wisconsin,” or “Wisconsin Music Archives” in the library catalog. Other titles can be found by searching the Music Library Digital Collections databases. In addition, many collections are not processed. Please consult a staff member for assistance.

Materials from the Special Collections are available for use in the Music Library during our normal business hours. Hours vary during breaks and interim periods, however, and visiting scholars, in particular, are advised to write or call in advance.

  • The Americana Collection contains some 7,000 songs and sheet music published in 19th-century America. Midwestern publishers are well represented.

  • The American Hymnal and Songbook Collection contains some 500 American imprints from 1786 to the early 20th century. Included are works of Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Hastings, Lowell Mason, William Bradbury, Joshua Leavitt, Ira Sankey, and others. Some volumes from this collection are available online.

  • The Robert Andresen Collection includes thousands of recordings and song folios that highlight ethnic music in the Upper Midwest. Andresen was an avid collector of traditional recordings, a recorder of old-time musicians, and the host of the Northland Hoedown radio show that aired over KUMD-FM, Duluth. A finding aid for the collection is available here.

  • The Blake Horn Collection contains approximately 6,000 recordings in LP, CD, 78 rpm and cassette format featuring the horn in solo and chamber music. The collection is thoroughly described in a 1995 Jongleur article.

  • The Hummel Collection includes approximately 125 first and early editions of Austrian composer, pianist, and pedagogue Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837) and letters from the composer to his publisher.

  • Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings. In 2010, Sherry Mayrent generously donated her entire collection of Yiddish 78-rpm records to the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s General Library System. Ms. Mayrent collected over 6,000 discs produced between 1905 and 1953 in the United States, the Soviet Union, Israel, Argentina, Uruguay, and elsewhere. The collection includes Yiddish theater music, liturgical music, klezmer bands and orchestras, humorous monologues and dialogues, folk songs, popular songs, and readings by authors. The performers range from the famous — Sophie Tucker, Molly Picon, Sholom Aleichem — to the obscure, such as the Russisch-Judische Orchestra.

    These rescued 78-rpm records present a wealth of research possibilities in folklore, linguistics, humor, and ethnomusicology. The Mayrent Collection allows researchers to trace the cross-pollination of musical cultures, to examine social attitudes through lyrics of popular song, and to delve into the history of klezmer music, Yiddish theater, and American musical theater.

    The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture and the library intend to make all the recordings available as digital sound files. While this work is in progress, patrons may listen to already digitized recordings within Mills Music Library. Please request an appointment online or phone Mills Music Library’s reference desk at (608) 263-1884. A partial inventory of the discs is available here.

  • The Modern Indonesian Collection is comprised of approximately 1,900 audio cassettes of popular Indonesian music of all genres. The collection is fully cataloged and accessible through the library catalog.

  • The Popular Sheet Music Collection contains popular song sheets published in the United States since 1900. At present, approximately 10,500 titles have been entered into the database, which is updated twice yearly.

  • The Recorded Sound Archives contain more than 125,000 16, 33, 45, and 78 rpms, cylinders, wire recordings, piano rolls, and cassette and open reel recordings. The collection is particularly strong in the folk musical traditions of European-Americans. It also has significant holdings of the Upper Midwest’s Woodland Indian and African-American gospel music traditions. In addition, many music programs produced by Wisconsin Public Radio, including Downhome Dairyland and Simply Folk, as well as the University of Wisconsin School of Music Recordings, are archived here.

    An inventory of our holdings of 78-rpm recordings is available here. The linked Excel file contains a list of record labels and matrix numbers that is updated regularly.

  • The Skitch Henderson Collection. In 1970, conductor Skitch Henderson donated approximately 1,000 of his scores and arrangements plus parts to the University of Wisconsin. The collection includes the 676 manuscript scores of arrangements used on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, arrangements for the BBC Dance Band, and other small ensembles, as well as symphonic arrangements. A finding aid is available.

  • The South Asian Collection contains some 5,000 recordings of music from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. All genres of music are represented, with particular strengths in Indian film and popular music. The collection is fully cataloged and may be searched using the library catalog.

  • The Tams-Witmark/Wisconsin Collection comprises some 37,000 items, representing more than 1,600 titles from the musical stage in America from approximately 1800 to the 1920s. Materials are from the entire range of the musical stage tradition: grand opera, operetta, musical comedy and revue, minstrel show, and burlesque. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of piano-vocal scores and promptbooks, but many titles include orchestral parts, full scores, choral parts, vocal parts, libretti, stage manager guides and dialogue parts, as well as production materials such as scenery, lighting, and costume plots. The collection is fully cataloged and may be searched in the library catalog.

  • Zurawski Polish Music Collection. A collection of Polish and Polish-American music recordings, including commercial 78-rpm discs, live performances recorded by Greg Zurawski (1927–1994) in Wisconsin during the 1970s and 1980s, and transcription recordings of polka music radio broadcasts.

Recent Acquisitions

New books and scores are displayed on the New Books Shelf in the lobby area. These materials may circulate at any time.

New media materials are sent directly to the Audio Facility, where they are available for immediate use.