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Detroit Nonprofit Working To Save City's Jazz History

DETROIT (AP) - Volunteers are working to save pieces of the city's jazz history from a long-vacant building in downtown Detroit.

The nonprofit Detroit Sound Conservancy is trying to salvage items belonging to the former Graystone International Jazz Museum collection left abandoned inside the Book Building since 2009. The Detroit Historical Society is helping the group of self-proclaimed "sound activists" recover and preserve the artifacts, which include posters, records, instruments and materials from the famed Graystone Ballroom.

Once a great jazz venue, the Graystone Ballroom, hosted popular artists like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1950s, the building in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood closed and struggled to reopen.

The Graystone International Jazz Museum was established to commemorate the city's jazz heritage several years before the ballroom was torn down in 1980.

For the past two years, the Detroit Sound Conservancy worked to acquire the rights to the Graystone collection from its remaining board members. The group recently began the project after the artifacts were gifted to it.

"We feel strongly that if we waited another season that this opportunity might not exist anymore," said Detroit Sound Conservancy founder and president Carleton Gholz, who secured access to the Book Building through a building manager to recover the artifacts. His fear was that if the building were to be purchased that "everything could go into a dumpster."

The nonprofit will begin archiving and digitizing the collection at a storage warehouse where the relics have been taken, reported.

The organization hopes to display parts of the collection in a public gallery space in the next couple years. It wants the entire collection in a museum dedicated to Detroit's musical heritage within five years.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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