Significance of Sedalia’s Ragtime Archive
This sadly neglected archive is directly associated with the 1974-75 Ragtime Festivals and the annual festivals held in Sedalia since 1983. These musical celebrations, especially the first, have involved every musician associated with the genre in the modern era, and, as such, the collection from this extraordinary forty-year achievement are a unique record of one aspect of America’s great musical styles.
The Sedalia Ragtime Archive contains the public correspondence, photographs and financial records of the festivals as well as personal items associated with the historic ragtime composers and musicians (notably Scott Joplin, Scott Hayden, Arthur Marshall and Tom Ireland) who lived and performed in Sedalia at the turn of the 20th century. Because of these musicians who began their careers here Sedalia has always been considered the birthplace of the genre and modern performers and researchers from around the globe look to Sedalia to have a well maintained record of this important ongoing cultural phenomena.
A few of the most historically significant items in the collection include the only known copy of the original Maple Leaf Club business card referring to Scott Joplin as “The Entertainer,” Joplin’s own copy of his opera “Treemonisha” donated and acquired by historian Rudy Blesh from Joplin’s wife in the 1940’s; a copy of the original incorporation papers of the Maple Leaf Club; the corner-stone from Joplin’s college and Tom Ireland’s clarinet.
Authorities from around the world inquire annually about Sedalia’s musical heritage and visitors often make pilgrimages to the birthplace of ragtime music inquiring about the collection.
Since Sedalia has hosted these one of a kind ragtime events over the past years, the collection is of inestimable value on an international scale. Many of the specific items have a high dollar value including memorabilia from the first festival which sells regularly on eBay.
However, it is the historical significance of this unique collection in its entirety that gives it the highest value and emphasizes the critical importance of organizing, conserving, maintaining and displaying this material for future use. It will be an important tourism attraction and educational springboard for local awareness and pride programs in and around Sedalia not to mention the promotion of racially integrated studies. Finally, ragtime music links all the other historical elements that are part of Sedalia’s heritage.