Complete or representative collections?

Should every record or only a representative selection of recordings be preserved?

The majority of commercial recordings feature popular music of various types. It may be argued that not all recordings are worth preserving. Certainly many popular recordings may be of ephemeral interest only. But it is very difficult to know what will be considered valuable fifty years from now. Folk music was once despised by many people; now it is studied seriously everywhere. Urban popular music was in turn considered by scholars to be inferior to folk music, but 1981 saw the founding of an international association devoted to the study of popular music. Many popular records made in the 1960s have already become eagerly sought collectors' items.

Very few countries publish more than a thousand LP records annually. It takes about three metres of shelf space to store a thousand records. In many countries the complete record production of many decades can be stored in one small room. In most cases there cannot be any real practical objections to preserving a copy (or better still, two copies) of every nationally produced record. In my opinion, it is far better to waste a little space on unimportant recordings than to risk the complete disappearance of some important ones.

If every country were to assume the responsibility for preserving copies of its national record production not an unrealistic or unreasonably expensive task -we could be certain that an important part of human creativity was being preserved for posterity. Later it will be much more difficult and often impossible to fill in the gaps.