Shure Inc. Archives

In 1925, Sidney N. Shure founded a company in Chicago that supplied radio parts.  Eventually, the Shure Radio Company evolved into a company known for its high-quality microphones.  In 1939, the company created a microphone known as the Unidyne, which eventually became its most iconic one.  Not only did famous rock stars, such as Elvis Presley, use it, but so did John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. during some of their famous speeches.

This is a 1993 U.S. postage stamp of Elvis Presley singing into a Shure Unydine microphone.

With several international offices and thousands of staff, Shure Inc. has a library that provides resources for its many employees.  Therefore, Shure Inc. has a librarian who manages all of these resources, many of which are databases and ebooks.  The librarian is also the company’s archivist.  I was privileged to have the opportunity of visiting the (usually inaccessible) Shure archives with an archivist group.  The archivist/librarian led the tour.  However, it was also led by another Shure employee who is currently creating a digital collection of their archival materials, since having that information handy is beneficial to their staff. 

Shure’s headquarters were originally located in Chicago, and then in suburban Evanston, Illinois from 1956 to 2003.  They then moved to their current location in another Chicago suburb, Niles.  The public area on the current building’s main floor has a mini display about the history of Shure, which the archivist created.  She walked us through this display before taking us to the actual archives.  In addition to collecting their many models of microphones, the archivist collects microphones that survived unusual situations unharmed.  People often send these microphones to them.  For example, one microphone survived being run over by a truck, and although slightly bent, still worked.

In addition to seeing the actual archives, our tour also included Shure Inc.’s top-notch recording studio, where staff test the quality of their newly-created microphones.  However, the best part of the tour included a stop in one of their many anechoic chambers.  Anechoic means “no echo.”  Basically, this is a heavily padded room, where Shure staff can test the quality of their microphones and headphones.  The room was extremely quiet, so once we exited the anechoic chamber, the surrounding noise in the room outside was dramatically noticeable. 

Anechoic Chamber

Although microphones may not seem important enough to have their own archivist, the fact that NASA, the United States army during World War II, and famous musicians have all used Shure microphones, means that the company’s impact on history has been significant enough to document it.

Sources and Further Reading

Holmes, Allison Schein. “Wrap Up for Shure Inc. Archives Tour and Photography Demonstration.” Shure. November 18, 2019. http://www.chicagoarchivists.org/news/8127341 (accessed March 27, 2020).

“Mysteries and Treasures in the Shure Archives.” Shure. January 27, 2016. https://www.shure.com/en-US/performance-production/louder/mysteries-and-treasures-in-the-shure-archives (accessed March 27, 2020).

Rochman, Davida. “Shure History.” Shure. https://www.shure.eu/company/history (accessed March 27, 2020).