Photographic Youth Music Culture Archive – Cultural Research

Website feature by Jo Whitby

The Photographic Youth Music Culture Archive has seemingly slipped my radar until now with the launch of their new Cultural Research section. For as long as I can remember I have always felt an element of glee and excitement when coming across music related photographs of eras gone by. I also came to appreciate the more recent documentation of music culture with a similar joyous enthusiasm. When granted a 48-hour guest pass on the PYMCA website for the purpose of this feature I must say I felt like a child in a sweet shop, or in my case, a record shop.

The new Cultural Research section is aimed primarily at those seeking to access a mainly academic level resource that features a wealth of essays, visuals, films and related links about youth music culture from the 1940s onwards. The site is split into several areas such as decade
and genre making it easy to navigate. Once you’ve found your way into the desired section a choice of images and essays appear with extra menus detailing potential reading, music of the era or genre, film recommendations, archive video and useful website links. Every decade and genre has its own introductory essay highlighting important events, the types of subcultures with a focus on looks pointing out fashion descriptors such as the defining features of a mod or a hippy in the 1960s.

Many of the essays and research texts available are written by Ted Polhemus, a well respected authority on style and fashion especially concerning personal expression and identity. Polhemus’s writing style (and passion) for the subject matter makes for an enjoyable read and is presented in easily digestible amounts rather than an overload of dry academic rambling. There is also access available to exclusive essays and interviews from DJ focusing on areas such as Hip Hop and Acid House. The sheer magnitude of quality work and information with the Cultural Research section is astonishing. It’s an impressive resource and with access to over 25000 exclusive PYMCA images it certainly is a treasure trove for researchers and music fans alike.

Admittedly if you are an individual the prices for access are not cheap but if you have a passion for youth music culture and are particularly interested in researching that area then it’s certainly money well spent. By the looks of it the site is continuing to develop and in my eyes can only go from strength to strength.

If it were not for archives such as the PYMCA, the documentation of youth music culture would forever be confined to the dusty pages of history books, poorly produced daytime documentaries on a cable channel you’ve never heard of or trapped in a dark basement, eroding out of sight. It is important to see and discuss the youth music culture of the past in order to appreciate the present and to ponder on all the possibilities the future holds. The PYMCA website and its fantastic new Cultural Research section keep the music and the memories alive for generations to come.

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