The Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS) was founded in 1952 by Marshall Stearns, a professor of English at Hunter College. The author of the pioneering Story of Jazz, Stearns was a serious jazz scholar during an era when jazz had not yet been accepted in academic circles. The original IJS collection was housed in his Greenwich Village apartment, which he opened to jazz researchers once a week. By the mid-1960s, he began to seek out an institutional home for the collection. Rutgers president Mason Gross, encouraged by some jazz supporters on the faculty and administration, was receptive, and in 1967 the collection was moved to Rutgers University’s Newark campus. Originally housed in the Dana Library, IJS moved to Bradley Hall in 1975. Charles Nanry, a professor of sociology, was the first administrator; he was succeeded by noted bassist Chris White, who became executive director in 1972. In 1976, Dan Morgenstern became director, remaining until his retirement in 2012. Morgenstern, a widely respected jazz writer and historian and winner of multiple Grammy awards for his album notes, oversaw a period of tremendous growth in the Institute’s collections and activities. In 1984, IJS became part of the Rutgers University Libraries, which led to archivist and librarian lines and, in 1994, a move back to the Dana Library into a newly constructed, state-of-the art facility. In addition to over 200,000 recordings in all formats, a 6,000-book library, and extensive archival collections of such jazz icons as James P. Johnson, Mary Lou Williams, Abbey Lincoln, and Benny Carter, IJS houses such treasures as the saxophones of Lester Young, Ben Webster, and Don Byas, a handwritten memoir of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday’s jewelry, and Ella Fitzgerald’s gown and wig.
Sheldon Harris (left), the Institute's first curator, with founder Marshall Stearns at the Institute, late 1950s
Building upon the vision of Marshall Stearns, IJS has conducted many outreach activities, including its monthly Jazz Research Roundtable, a yearly concert series, as well as special performance events, conferences, and exhibits, both physical and online, all free and open to the public. From 1979 to 2014, IJS produced a weekly radio program, Jazz from the Archives, heard on WBGO-FM, Newark’s renowned public radio jazz station. In 1973, it launched the Journal of Jazz Studies, which continues today as a peer-reviewed, online open-access publication. In 1982, in conjunction with Scarecrow Press, IJS began its Studies in Jazz series, issuing over 70 titles devoted to jazz history, biography, musicology, and discography. The Institute has been successful in obtaining grant support for a variety of major projects ranging from performance to cataloging and preservation, digitization, and oral history. IJS directly supports students and faculty in the unique Master’s Program in Jazz History and Research, founded by Professor Lewis Porter in 1994 at Rutgers Unversity - Newark. The efflorescence of jazz in academia and in the world’s leading cultural institutions would undoubtedly have surprised, and no doubt pleased, Marshall Stearns. Recognized as the world’s leading jazz archives, through its multifaceted programs, IJS now serves a diverse and worldwide constituency of scholars, students at all levels, musicians, members of the Newark community, and arts organizations. In 2013, IJS was designated as a Literary Landmark by the NJ Center for the Book.