Vinyl is in the midst of a major resurgence. It seems that in every corner of musical fandom you’ll find audiophiles discovering, rediscovering, and generally geeking out over the rich, lush, layered sound of music pressed to plastic. The pinnacle of such devotion is Record Store Day. Founded in 2007 by some Baltimore record shop owners, the day for all things vinyl is now celebrated the world over, with overnight lines forming for limited edition releases.
To commemorate the day, and acknowledge his own enduring love of old records, Paris-based Thomas Henry–he of the most adorable mini-chairs street marketing campaign for his Paris bar–took it upon himself to create an interactive ode to Paris’ bygone record stores with Disquaires de Paris, or Record Stores of Paris. By using a timeline slider, the site charts where a Parisian might have procured their phonographs, and provides information such as the store’s opening and closing dates, as well images of the illustrated records sleeves, stickers or stamps such stores would have given to patrons.
An avid collector of 78rpm records and author of Ceints de Bakélite, a blog dedicated to the format, Henry (whose actual day job is working in web and social media at a French private company) says such visual evidence from long-gone record shops has always fascinated him. “I started collecting them and realized there used to be record stores nearly everywhere in Paris,” says Henry. That’s how he had the idea for the interactive map, which was developed by Paris-based agency Douny. “The point of this map is to provide data and visual documents to researchers or music lovers who are interested in the history of music and the record industry. It also aims at paying a tribute to these now disappeared stores and enhance this heritage of Paris.”
The map endeavors to list every seller of records and phonographic cylinders that ever existed in Paris since the beginning of the phonographic industry, and provides one or several visual elements for each store, such as sleeves, stickers, stamps, ads, and postcards, says Henry. The imagery comes from his own personal collection, were sent in by other collectors, or were found in Gallica, the digital library of the French National Library. It also offers basic information such as the store’s opening and closing dates. He first focused on the cylinders and 78rpm records era but says a forthcoming update will include stores from the modern era.
Henry says he researched the opening and closing dates of the old shops in the City of Paris archives. He also used old phone directories, which proved very useful. Still, the map is not complete. “Some stores only lasted a few years or had very brief activity, so that I still could not find any visual elements about them. There are other stores for which I was not able to find precise opening and closing dates. All these stores will be added little by little when I’ll find more elements about them.”
This project doesn’t end with the interactive experience. To make record-store history more real, he also created a series of DIY posters out of record sleeves and pasted them at the store’s original location. “I didn’t want the project to be only virtual and I liked the idea of mixing digital mapping and real world,” Henry says. “So I recycled some old 78rpm records sleeves where I printed a text saying something like ‘From 19xx to 19xx, there used to be a record store called xxx at this address’ and linking to the website. Then I selected a few sellers on the map and stuck my posters on the wall of their former location.”
The longer goal for Henry is to complete the map, which to date only goes from 1890-1960, as well as add testimonials and anecdotes about these stores. “When I contacted other collectors about this project, some of them spontaneously started to tell me about their memories of Paris’ records sellers. That’s something really interesting and promising, I think, I’d like to focus on this later.”