Archived at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, the Crocodile Cafe Collection contains over 120 continuous-days of unique live audio and video recordings. Recorded at the Crocodile Cafe between May 2002 and December 2007 by audio engineer Jim Anderson, these recordings document performances by 2,000+ artists. From indie rock to punk, freak folk to noise, and Disney covers to shoegazer, the collection captures numerous memorable and energetic performances. Whatever your opinion of a particular band, the authentic and crystalline quality of the recordings is a testament to the audio engineering prowess of the collection’s donor and creator, Jim Anderson.

In collaboration with University of Washington Libraries, the MLab prototyped an online exhibit to interpret the Crocodile Cafe Collection and the do-it-yourself (DIY) contexts and cultures in which it is embedded. The MLab used the Scalar platform to construct the exhibit (not public), which consists not only of audio and video clips but also interviews with musicians and narratives that stitch together content in the Collection. The project began in 2011, when Jentery Sayers was teaching media studies courses at the University of Washington-Bothell. There, with significant support from University of Washington librarian, John Vallier, Sayers taught a new media production and community-based research course about building scholarly online exhibits. In conversation with Jim Anderson, Vallier, and various musicians in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, Sayers and the UW students constructed the first draft of the exhibit, with the ultimate intent of pointing people to the Crocodile Cafe Collection and giving that Collection an even richer sense of history (particularly where DIY cultures are concerned).

Interview with Ian

Screengrab of the Crocodile Cafe Exhibit, which features audio of an interview with Ian MacKaye. Interview conducted by Jentery Sayers at the Dischord House.

Research Leads, Contributors, Support, and Partnerships

The research leads for the the Crocodile Cafe Exhibit were Shaun Macpherson and Jentery Sayers. Initial development of the exhibit (2012-13) was supported by the University of Victoria’s Office of Research Services and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, based on a grant proposal Jentery Sayers wrote in 2012. To prototype the exhibit, the MLab collaborated with University of Washington Libraries (including John Vallier and Laurel Sercombe), Jim Anderson (the collection’s donor and creator), and the Scalar development team at the University of Southern California. Locally, Shaun Macpherson and Jentery Sayers were the primary authors of the exhibit. Contributors to the exhibit include over thirty University of Washington students and more than twenty musicians who somehow played a role in the Croc Cafe scene between 2002 and 2007.

Project Status

While active development of this exhibit is on hiatus, the MLab is considering ways to expand it beyond the Seattle scene, interview more people, and gather more materials. This expansion will enrich the Scalar prototype Sayers, Macpherson, and the MLab team built between 2012 and 2014. During that period, Sayers also gave several talks on the project, including a talk at the 2012 MLA Convention in Seattle.

Post by Jentery Sayers and Shaun Macpherson, attached to the CrocCafe project, with the projects and exhibits tags. Featured image for this post by Shaun Macpherson, from the Crocodile Cafe Exhibit (built using Scalar). (This post was updated on 16 October 2016.)


More about Jentery Sayers

Associate Professor, English and CSPT | Principal Investigator, MLab in the Humanities