The Center for Popular Music was established at Middle Tennessee State University in 1985. Its mission is to foster research and scholarship in American popular music and to promote an awareness of and appreciation for America's diverse musical culture.
The center maintains one of the country's largest and best music research collections. It includes extensive holdings of books, sound recordings, sheet music, scores, song broadsides, periodicals, songsters, photographs, posters, playbills, trade catalogs, news clippings, and various other materials that support the study of popular music in its musical, social, cultural, historical, technological, and commercial contexts. Rather than focusing on any single genre of popular music, the center advocates and supports an integrated approach to the study of popular musics. The collection is particularly strong in its holdings of materials that support the study of rock and its roots; the music of the Southeast; and various forms of vernacular religious music.
In addition to this broad genre coverage, the center's collection reflects considerable historical depth. It takes as a chronological starting point the introduction of European and African cultures to North America and continues into the present. The holdings are copious in nineteenth-century sheet music, broadsides, songsters, and songbooks and include a sizable body of materials from the eighteenth century as well. Visiting scholars have termed the center a “world-class archive” and “the South's premiere Music collection.”
In addition to building and maintaining its research collections, the center has produced many public programs, seminars, conferences, publications, and media productions that serve to disseminate information to the public at large. The center also operates a fully equipped Audio Restoration Lab that serves a variety of academic, government, and commercial clients.