A New Tool from the Library of Congress Lets You Remix History

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The archives of the United States Library of Congress house centuries of American history—and thanks to painstaking digitization efforts, millions of artifacts are available for anyone to explore online. Their repository of public domain images, videos, and documents has long been an amazing resource for artists and creators, and now they’re making it easier than ever for hip-hop musicians to remix audio using archival sound recordings.

The Library of Congress’s open-source Citizen DJ project, developed by Innovator-in-Residence Brian Foo, provides a simple interface for exploring the Library’s extensive audio collections, as well as a platform for combining these samples with hip-hop beats. Creators can also download “sample packs” featuring a vast array of sound clips that they can upload into their music production programs of choice. 

The audio clips are drawn from over a century of live music, theatrical performances, speeches, interviews, and ambient sound recordings. Creators can use the clips to create songs for personal or commercial purposes—no copyright restrictions apply.

“My goal is to develop a simple way to discover and use public domain audio and video material for music making so that generations of artists and producers can use it to maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures and sonic history that might otherwise go unremembered,” Foo shared in a press release. “That’s what Citizen DJ is all about—an easy to use tool that unlocks the amazing treasures in the Library of Congress for music makers and their audiences.”

The project will fully launch this summer, but the Library of Congress is encouraging members of the public to try out a demo version and share user feedback through May 15.

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