The Internet Museum of Oddity Records

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While hunting for information on an obscure type of DIY records, I stumbled across a DIY site that's a perfect example of the early Internet ethos.

wilcoxgay.jpg

I've recently become obsessed with an odd kind of old record, Wilcox Gay Recordio disks. The company sold record-it-yourself machines that allowed people to cut one-off records from the comfort of their ranch homes. Many people recorded themselves singing, but others recorded letters that they sent to their loved ones. The first few discs I picked up were a mixture of Christian hymns ("Onward Christian Soldier") and a relatively pedestrian description of a 1941 trip from Indianapolis through Muncie and on to Ohio. I've embedded the latter below, but you'll really have to crank up the volume to hear much. (I've done my best with the de-noising but this is a metal disk from 1941 and it's not in great shape.)
In any case, I've started trying to hunt down more of these records -- and more information about the class of records -- because they each provide a little peek into the day-to-day world of the past. And while looking for that information, I stumbled upon an digital relic, The Internet Museum of Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity Records, assembled by Michael Cumella, a collector of truly obscure records, who is also a DJ at WFMU. Here's the site's introduction, formatting intact:
 

Once bound by cereal boxes, held in the pages of a magazine, wrapped up in envelopes sent through our postal system or given away casually with some product, these bits of paper and plastic yearned to be set free to fulfill their destiny as...

PLAYABLE RECORDS

Come and take an aural and visual journey through a partial history of these strange but true recorded anomolies.

Who knew that there were so many oddity records out there? And thanks to the Internet and Cumella's hard work, you can actually listen to them from the comfort of *your* ranch home. 

The museum was built, from the looks of it, around 2000 and it's the kind of passion-filled site that people used to create before the web's more commercial side took over. This is not a Tumblr full of recycled GIFs. This is a networked archive of someone's offline passion overflowing onto the web. As Verge writer Tim Carmody put it one time, "The Internet is best when it's not just made of other Internet," and this old-school site exemplifies that ethos.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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