Cornell University Library site
Cornell Hip Hop
Collection
Find us on Facebook Find us on Twitter Find us on Instagram

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Cornell Hip Hop Collection?

The Cornell Hip Hop Collection (CHHC) is a research archive of original artifacts, images, and sound recordings documenting the birth and spread of Hip Hop culture. The mission of the Collection is to collect and make accessible the historical documents of Hip Hop culture and to ensure their preservation for current and future generations.

Where is the Hip Hop Collection located?

The Collection is located in Ithaca, New York at Cornell University. It physically resides in the Carl A. Kroch Library, an underground, state-of-the-art rare book and manuscript facility in the center of Cornell’s campus. The Hip Hop Collection is one of thousands of rare or unique and archival collections preserved by Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

Who manages the Hip Hop Collection?

Katherine Reagan, Cornell University’s Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts, worked with Johan Kugelberg and Joe Conzo, Jr. to bring the Hip Hop Collection to Cornell in 2007. In May 2011 Cornell Library hired Ben Ortiz as the CHHC’s Assistant Curator. Ben and Katherine work together to build and promote the collection, drawing upon the knowledge and advice of an accomplished community of advisors and supporters, including Hip Hop artists, community members, and faculty from Cornell University and beyond.

What kind of artifacts does it contain?

The CHHC preserves more than 250,000 items across dozens of archives documenting the origins of Hip Hop culture and its spread around the globe. The collections include thousands of sound and video recordings, hundreds of party and event flyers, artwork, photographs, books, magazines, and advertising, along with the archives of Hip Hop’s photographers, filmmakers, dancers, MC’s, DJ’s, artists, journalists, producers and publicists, and independent labels, managers and agencies. New materials continue to arrive every month. See the Collection Highlights page for some examples.

How did these items come to Cornell?

The original core of Cornell’s Hip Hop Collection, about 7,000 items, was donated in 2007 by author and collector Johan Kugelberg. Mr. Kugelberg began collecting Hip Hop artifacts in the late 1990s, seeking out materials and paying Hip Hop pioneers, community members, and other first generation participants for their collections.

In 2005, Mr. Kugelberg partnered with Hip Hop photographer Joe Conzo, Jr., with the goal of finding a New York City-area library or museum that would commit to permanently preserving the Hip Hop archive he had formed. The several institutions with whom they met, however, were either uninterested or unable to make a commitment to the collection. Eventually, Mr. Kugelberg chose Cornell University in Ithaca, NY to preserve and build upon his Hip Hop archive, impressed by its commitment to open public access, state-of-the-art archival facilities, respect for Hip Hop culture, and its faculty and students who enthusiastically embraced the archive. Here’s what pioneering hip hop photographer Joe Conzo has to say about the collection coming to Cornell:

I heard there were efforts to establish a Hip Hop museum in the Bronx. What about that?

Cornell University Library will be a willing partner of any future museum dedicated to Hip Hop. Museums typically educate the public by presenting interpretive stories through rotating displays of selected artifacts (like an early boom box, stage costume, photographs, etc.) behind glass or on screens. Archival collections, such as the Hip Hop Collection at Cornell, permanently preserve deep and comprehensive documentary records—whether through hundreds of boxes of paper and film, or gigabytes of electronic data—so that historians, scholars, students, or any seeker of knowledge can personally interact with the raw data of history not only today, but 100 or 1000 years from now. Museums, libraries, and archives frequently work hand-in-hand to create exhibitions and other educational opportunities. These efforts of celebration and historical preservation support each other. The more Hip Hop is valued and preserved by multiple institutions, the less chance there is of its important history being lost.

I notice that you periodically host educational programs and lectures. How do I keep informed on upcoming events?

The Hip Hop Collection actively honors and supports the artists who created Hip Hop culture—DJs, MCs, bboys/bgirls, artists, photographers, journalists, authors and more. The archive does not come alive without their participation, and we include their voices in our preservation efforts. For that reason, we frequently invite Hip Hop artists to Ithaca to give lectures or other presentations about their work and to tell their stories. Want to stay informed? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for upcoming events.

Who can see the Collection?

The Collection is open to everyone. You don’t need to be affiliated with Cornell University to view materials in the Hip Hop Collection. We welcome students, scholars, Hip Hop enthusiasts, and community members from around the globe. Anyone who has a research project to investigate or a quest for knowledge is invited to make an appointment. Because the CHHC is a research archive and not a permanent museum display, however, you will need to tell us which topics you are interested in, or which artifacts you would like to see, when arranging your visit.

Can I bring a group of students or interested members of the public to see the Collection?

Yes! With advance notice, we welcome requests for group presentations at Cornell or elsewhere. If you would like to arrange a visit for your students or other group, please contact us (hiphopcollection@cornell.edu).

How do I look at items in the Collection?

Call or contact us to make an appointment. If you’re interested knowing whether we have specific items, you can search Cornell Library’s Catalog. Some recently acquired parts of the Collection are still being cataloged. If you’re not sure whether we have something you’re looking for, or have questions, please contact us (hiphopcollection@cornell.edu). Once you arrive at the library, staff will retrieve materials for you to view in our reading room. Because materials preserved in the CHHC are rare, unique, and/or valuable, they cannot be borrowed or taken outside the Library. But you may take photographs (without flash) or request copies of materials for research use.

What’s expected when I arrive?

We ask researchers to register and request materials before their arrival. When you arrive, you will also need to present one form of photo identification. Otherwise, anyone can ask to see materials in the CHHC anytime during our open hours (M-F 10- 4, and selected Saturday afternoons). Our staff will retrieve items for you from our secure vault and bring them to you in our reading room, where you are welcome to study materials at your leisure. Due to preservation and copyright restrictions, listening access to unique audio or video recordings needs to be arranged in advance, but there are no limits on looking at the packaging or paper documentation accompanying commercial recordings (album sleeves, liner notes, etc.), which often contain important historical information.

Is the Collection available to see or listen to online?

To ensure that the archive reaches as many people as possible, Cornell University Library has been digitizing materials since 2012, where permissions and copyright laws allow. Libraries and museums responsibly balance public interest in online collections with ethical consideration of the legal rights of artists to their own works. For this reason, our digitization efforts proceed only with due consideration for the artists who created the culture. See our Digital Collections page for archival materials available to view online.

How do I offer materials to the Collection?

We welcome offers of materials for sale or donation—books, manuscripts, photographs, flyers, artwork, unique audio or video recordings, and the archival papers of Hip Hop artists, labels, journalists, businesses, and community organizations. Please contact us (hiphopcollection@cornell.edu) if you would like to discuss a potential donation or sale.