Vinyl-lovers know and play LPs and 45s, but few have the more obscure, earlier-generation 78 r.p.m. records. A lot of that is down to materials choices; while vinyl is reasonably durable, 78s were made from more brittle shellac and tend to shatter over time.
For that reason, The Great 78 Project has been furiously digitizing 78s before the music disappears forever.
The Great 78 Project is a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records. From about 1898 to the 1950s, an estimated 3 million sides (~3 minute recordings) have been made on 78rpm discs. While the commercially viable recordings will have been restored or remastered onto LP’s or CD, there is still research value in the artifacts and usage evidence in the often rare 78rpm discs and recordings.
There are three places where you can download these tracks, but the first two have crappy interfaces where it’s difficult to browse. The best link to click on is this one provided by archiving service George Blood L.P., which has checkbox filters and thumbnails that make it pretty easy to browse and sift through.
To date, the George Blood link provides access to some 26,000 tracks. And there are more on the way: The Great 78 Project currently has around 200,000 78s in total.