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John Baker Film Collection

American Jazz Museum 

Nat King Cole TrioNat King Cole Trio

As part of its permanent collection, the American Jazz Museum is home to one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of film footage pertaining to jazz. This includes more than 5,000 titles, consisting of approximately 1,497,000 feet of 16- and 35-mm black and white and color films — roughly 700 hours — dating from 1927 through the early 1970s. Originally amassed by John H. Baker, an Ohio attorney and collector, and acquired by the City of Kansas City, Mo., in 1984, the collection spotlights many of the legendary performers with whom we immediately associate the sights and sounds of jazz.


The American Jazz Museum serves as a repository for priceless, rare, and one-of-a-kind artifacts, documents and photographs, film and sound recordings, published books, sheet music, and visual art pieces that inform our understanding of jazz as a historical and living art form.


The Museum provides access to artifacts, photographs, and documents that showcase the life and work of America’s jazz musicians and the impact of jazz on American society and culture in general and in Kansas City in particular. Among the artifacts are musical instruments of all kinds, including Charlie Parker’s Grafton saxophone, Claude ‘Fiddler’ Williams’ violin, and Ernie Williams’ bass drum. The collection also contains many personal effects of jazz musicians, including performance contracts, handwritten correspondence from John Coltrane and Pearl Thuston-Brown, performance outfits worn by Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker’s gold pocket watch and cuff links. The holdings also contain a vast collection of photographs, posters, and jazz related ephemera. Also among the artifacts are evidence of technological developments in sound recording, from the Edison graphophone to mid-century and modern radios and turntables.

Jazz musician W. C. Handy standing next to unident. trumpeter. Jazz essay: set #16266

W. C. Handy and an unidentified trumpeter performing in New Orleans, 1944. 

The American Jazz Museum is also home to the John H. Baker Film Collection. The collection is comprised of over 2000 rolls of film, as well as photographs and other materials, and provides an astounding visual record of jazz performances.

The Museum maintains an ever expanding music library of sound recordings on phonograph cylinders, vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, and compact discs capturing the evolution of the art form from the dawn of recorded sound to today’s jazz masters and up-and-coming stars. The music library also contains a wide array of sheet music covering jazz compositions and other genres as well as books and other unique publications that provide insight into the nation’s jazz history and the social and cultural life of Kansas City’s jazz scene.

The American Jazz Museum’s art collection includes the work of nationally renowned visual artists working in a variety of media, including painting, photography, and sculpture, with particular focus on pieces that celebrate jazz, jazz culture, and the African American experience. Among the Museum’s pieces are works of muralists Selina ONeal and José Faus, photographer Robert Hale, and print artist Curlee Raven Holten.

American Jazz Museum: A John Baker Film Collection Sampler

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