The Vahdah Olcott-Bickford Collection documents Olcott-Bickford’s professional life as a classical guitarist, an avid member of various organizations in the United States, her work with guitarists around the world, and her personal life. The collection includes scores, letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, receipts, articles, lecture notes, and guest books, and dates from 1874-1980, with the bulk of materials from 1923-1979. It is divided into seven series: Scores, Correspondence, Personal and Subject Files (1882-1973), Periodicals, American Guitar Society Files, Photographic Material (1892-1964), and Sound Recordings.
Series I, Scores, consists of approximately 7,000 music scores of varied instrumentation, almost always including a guitar, written by a wide variety of composers. They date primarily from the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of these scores are referenced in the correspondence, especially when Olcott-Bickford received them in the mail. Some are signed by Olcott-Bickford, possibly to show her ownership, and others include personal notes. The scores were published in various parts of the world including Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and are filed by identification number.
Series II, Correspondence (1904-1991), is sorted in three subseries: Personal, Musicians and Music Organizations, and Astrological. These documents date between the early 1900s and late 1970s. The Personal subseries documents Olcott-Bickford's relationships with friends and family not affiliated with the guitar. The Musicians and Music Organizations subseries documents Olcott-Bickford's interactions with other professionals, and includes commentary about performances, programs, and other music-related topics. The Astrological correspondence documents Olcott-Bickford’s interest in astrological matters, and includes correspondence between famous astrologers and friends. Many of these friends were guitarists who were also interested in astrology. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically.
Series III, Personal and Subject Files (1882-1973), documents the broad scope of Olcott-Bickford's professional and personal interests. It contains drafts, lectures, speeches, newspaper clippings, programs, catalogs, family records, ephemera, and other notes created for Olcott-Bickford and her husband's various professional and personal obligations as musicians, composers, arrangers, guitar historians, teachers, and astrologers. These materials date across her entire career as a guitarist and astrologer, and include personal notes and unrecorded lectures which provide a view into her life as a teacher. A few records of the Zarvah Publishing Company are included in this series, as well as some of Zahr Bickford's personal correspondence and other materials. The series is filed alphabetically.
Series IV, Periodicals (1887-2004), include serial publications about the guitar that Olcott-Bickford collected throughout her life. This series consists of two sub-series Complete Issues and Loose Articles. Complete Issues contain periodicals, dating from 1893-2004, which are closely related to guitar, banjo other plucked instruments. Loose Articles are clippings or tear outs from periodicals or newspapers dating from 1887-1994; they are articles highlighting the guitar or guitarists that Olcott-Bickford enjoyed reading about. Olcott-Bickford consistently and regularly added to her collection, and frequently wrote to magazines and periodicals that have since been discontinued. This series includes some articles that are specifically referred to in the Correspondence series. Periodicals range in date from the late 19th to late 20th century. Materials are filed alphabetically.
Series V, American Guitar Society Files (1924-1984), consist of items that Olcott-Bickford collected during her work founding and leading the AGS, which includes correspondence, minutes, programs, catalogs, and guest books. All of these items demonstrate the growth and development of AGS from a small organization in Los Angeles to a large society with international associations. Materials in the series date from a time when Olcott-Bickford was an active member in the early 1920s, serving as the Secretary and Musical Director of the Society, until the late 1960s.
Series VI, Photographic Material (1892-1964), contains personal and professional photographs of Olcott-Bickford, as well as photographs of people who corresponded with her and guitars. It is divided into two subseries: Loose Photographs and Albums and Scrapbooks. The series includes photographic prints, slides, negatives, photo albums, and scrapbooks. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by file title.
Series VII, Sound Recordings, consist of recordings that Olcott-Bickford personally collected or were given to her. Some of these sound recordings include items that have a label indicating they are from the Zarvah Publishing Co., and the rest are from Olcott-Bickford and Bickford’s personal collection of sound recordings. They are dated approximately early to mid-20th century. Many recordings have not been identified because they are unlabeled. Sound recording are filed by identification number.