American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library

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  • American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital LibraryReview by: Judy TsouNotes, Second Series, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Dec., 2000), pp. 453-457Published by: Music Library AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 08:58

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    American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Requires standard web browser; for audio: requires RealAudio player with 14.4kbps or faster Internet connection, MPEG2/layer 3 (.mp3) player, or WaveForm (.wav) player; for highest quality images some col- lections require Tagged Image File Format (.tiff) viewer.

    It is appropriate that, in this bicentennial year of the establishment of the Library of Congress, we review the library's gift to the nation-a digital multimedia library named the American Memory Project (AMP). The aim of the project, to have over a million items on the site by this anniversary year, has been achieved. AMP has been growing rapidly since 1995, and now has over sev- enty fully digitized collections. Its contents range from manuscript letters to baseball cards, daguerreotypes to digital pho- tographs, wax cylinder recordings to com- mercial jazz recordings, music manuscript scores to printed sheet music, and film clips to motion pictures. This wealth of re- sources is intended for researchers, stu- dents, teachers, and the public at all levels. The materials are drawn not only from the Library of Congress, but from a variety of institutions across the country. To date, ap- proximately $60 million from both public and private sources has been spent on the project. Private donors include both indi- viduals and corporations; noteworthy are Ameritech's three-year competitive grants. These funds provided support for institu- tions nationwide. Of the seventy collec- tions, eighteen contain music or are music- related, with seven more music-related collections in preparation. This review con- centrates on these eighteen collections.

    Music Collections

    The wide variety of topics included in AMP is reflected in the music collections. There are sheet music collections from Duke University ("Historical American Sheet Music") and Brown University

    ("African-American Sheet Music") from the same period, 1850-1920. Other sheet music collections include "Music for the Nation, American Sheet Music, 1870- 1885," a collection of sheet music originally submitted for copyright registration during the post-Civil War era, and "We'll Sing to Abe Our Song," a collection devoted to President Lincoln and the Civil War. This collection spans the period from the presi- dential campaign in 1859 to the centenary of Lincoln's birth in 1909. The sheet music collections generally include scanned scores in their entirety; some, such as the "We'll Sing to Abe Our Song," also tran- scribe the lyrics separately. Cover art is scanned in color where the original was in color. At present, there are no sound recordings of the music to go with the scores. In addition to sheet music, there is a collection of nineteenth-century song sheets, "America Singing," which contains only lyrics and no music.

    AMP is rich in ethnographic collections with multimedia access. These include: "California Gold," Sidney Robertson Cowell's WPA California Folk Music Project; "Southern Mosaic," John and Ruby Lomax's recordings from their trip to the southern states; "Hispano Music and Culture from the Rio Grande," Juan Rael's documentation of religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural northern New Mexico and southern Colorado; the American Folklife Center's "Omaha Indian Music," which presents tra- ditional Omaha Native American music; and Alan Jabbour's "Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier," performed by octogenarian


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  • NOTES, December 2000

    Henry Reed of the Virginian Appalachians. Another ethnographic collection, "Voices from the Dust Bowl," though not primarily a music collection, also contains some music. The collection documents the every- day life of residents of Farm Security Administration migrant work camps in cen- tral California in 1940 and 1941 through audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera col- lected during two field trips.

    Specific performances are documented. For example, "Now What a Time" docu- ments the Fort Valley College Festival of primarily blues and gospel songs from 1938 to 1943. "The American Variety Stage" is a vaudeville and popular entertainment col- lection from the turn of the century se- lected from the Library of Congress's hold- ings containing scripts, theater playbills and programs, motion pictures, photo- graphs, memorabilia, and some sound recordings. Although this is primarily a collection about the stage, the sound recordings are accessible online. Unfortu- nately they are not searchable.

    There are many other important music collections. "The Leonard Bernstein Col- lection" from the Library of Congress is the

    only collection thus far to include art music; the "Dayton C. Miller Flute Col- lection" contains nearly 1,650 color images of flutes and other instruments; "An American Ballroom Companion" of dance instruction manuals and anti-dance manu- als from the Library of Congress includes dance music; and the "William P. Gottlieb" collection, a photographic collection from the golden age of jazz, contains photo- graphs of artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk, and Ella Fitzgerald. Another collection that is not directly re- lated to music, but to the technology of sound recordings and motion pictures, is the "Inventing Entertainment" collection of the Edison Company.

    The "Future Collections" page describes collections forthcoming, but it changes rapidly. In one three-month period, three of the ten music-related "future collections" were finished and launched. At the time of writing, seven interesting collections were awaiting their addition to the main page. Two Library of Congress sheet music col-

    lections complement their "Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870- 1885." One includes sheet music from 1820 to 1860; the other from the 1860s, repre- senting the Civil War period. Another Civil War period collection, "Band Music from the Civil War Era," contains performances of mid-nineteenth century music. A com-

    plement to the Edison Collection of sound recordings is the upcoming "Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Record Industry." This collection includes manuscripts and gramo- phone recordings of Berliner, one of the central figures in the development of sound recordings and creator of the "His Master's Voice" trademark.

    Two upcoming collections will increase the representation of art music in AMP. The first, "Selected Papers of Edward and Marian MacDowell," includes music, sketchbooks, biographical information about the composer, documents relating to the MacDowell Colony, and Marian's writings. The second collection is North- western University's "Moldenhauer Ar- chives of Music Manuscripts," a collection of valuable autograph music manuscripts, correspondence, and literary documents collected by the late German-American mu-

    sicologist, Hans Moldenhauer. Although the collection consists primarily of Euro-

    pean music, including works by Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Franck, and Puccini, there are also works by others, such as the Swiss-American Ernest Bloch. This collection is an invaluable resource. A final music-related collection listed on the "Future Collections" page is the "Florida WPA Collection." This collection does not contain music exclusively, but does feature "children's songs and lullabies, blues and work songs from menhaden fishing boats and turpentine camps, dance music and re-

    ligious ceremonies and life histories," and will be valuable in documenting a part of American cultural and musical history.

    Layout of the Opening Page The layout of the opening page of the

    American Memory Project is clear and easy to use. The sizes of the fonts denote the im-

    portance of links. The largest type high- lights the three main paths into the collec- tions: "Collection Finder," "Search," and "Learning Page." These will be discussed in detail in subsequent sections. The


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  • Digital Media Reviews

    medium-sized type features "Today in

    History," "What's New!" and "Frequently Asked Questions." The "Today in History" feature provides information on notewor- thy people, places, and events every day of the year, and includes links to the Library's online collections. As its name implies, "What's New!" highlights new collections and updates. "Frequently Asked Questions" includes background information, copy- right restrictions, and advice on how to cite sources, and gives users an opportunity to send questions and comments to the site managers.

    In still smaller-sized fonts, "How to View" gives information on downloading viewers for audio and visual materials in non- technical language. "Copyright and Restrictions" spells out the rights and re- production terms for the materials in the collections. "Technical Information" de- scribes the specifications and technical as- pects of the site in great detail, with a list of hyperlinked "Background Readings." This page is designed for potential contributors to AMP. The last item in this category is "Future Collections," discussed above.

    Below this first screen but on the same page is information on sponsors and the winners of the LC/Ameritech competition grants, as well as a link to a multimedia multilingual (English and Russian) "digital library" independent of the AMP. Various links to other Library of Congress sites- the homepage, "Thomas," and so forth- are in the footnote area of the page.

    The Search Page The "Search" page, one of three pathways

    to the collections, allows searches across nearly all collections. Non-searchable col- lections are marked with a black x on a red dot; none of the music collections falls into this category. Below the search form, the collections are listed alphabetically; a click on the word "Descriptions" leads to short descriptions of each collection. This page is designed for free-text keyword searching for specific items or subjects across collec- tions. Instead of using the traditional search operators such as "and" and "or," the page uses natural language phrases such as "match any of these words," "match all of these words," or "match these exact phrases," concepts that are readily under- standable by users of any skill level. In addi-

    tion, one can specify "include word variants (e.g., plurals)" or just "match words ex-

    actly." The use of natural language makes

    patrons self-sufficient in executing the searches. My test search for "Asian song" using the "variants" option yielded twenty items. The search results are arranged in order of relevance. The first ten items con- tained both words near each other, whereas the second ten contained both words but not near each other. The search results in the first category came exclusively from Duke University's rich and well- organized "Historic Sheet Music Collection." The detail with which each piece of music was cataloged allowed this kind of retrieval. Each item includes a scanned image of the cover (a very impor- tant element in the study of sheet music), a detailed cataloging record, and the scanned image of the music itself. For some items in the second group of search results, it was difficult to detect the reason for their inclusion in the retrieval.

    One can limit the search by format, either "Original Format"-textual documents, sheet music, manuscripts, sound record- ings, maps, and so on-or "User Format," under the broad categories of "Hear," "Read," and "View." These terms will be readily understandable by younger patrons who may not understand what "motion pic- ture" means. Any collections excluded from the format searches are clearly spelled out in the link "What American Memory Resources are included in this search?"

    The Collection Finder

    The second path into the collections is the "Collection Finder," where collections are listed under broad topics. Music collec- tions are listed under "Performing Arts," which also includes dance and theater col- lections. In addition to broad topics, the collections can also be accessed by time pe- riod. The time periods are divided into centuries except for the pre-eighteenth- century period, for which all collections are grouped together because of their small number, and the twentieth century, which is divided into four periods because it con- tains the majority of collections. Other points of access are geographic area, the owning unit within the Library of Congress or at other institutions, and format. In ad- dition, one can search by various digital


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  • NOTES, December 2000

    formats such as JPEG, MPEG, MP3, SGML, and so on. Under "Finder Help" are useful explanations of all the search categories. Also available on this page are subject headings, which are a combination of Library of Congress Subject Headings and Thesaurus of Graphic Materials terms. There are twenty-seven subject headings for music materials; a twenty-eighth heading (Music-United States) is a duplicate due to a small typographical error (one with a period, the other without). Such minor typographical errors are understandable considering the enormity of the site; it is amazing that it is relatively error-free. Clicking on a subject heading brings up a list of the relevant collections. The subject headings are relatively broad, and are use- ful primarily for locating collections rather than specific items.

    More detailed subject headings are given within each collection. For example, "Cali- fornia Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties," a WPA project by Sidney Robertson Cowell co-sponsored by the University of California and the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), is indexed using several hundred detailed subjects. The subjects are also grouped into "Ethnic Groups," "Performers," "Musical Instruments," and "Audio Titles." Because Robertson Cowell recorded songs by vari- ous ethnic groups and also documented their unusual musical instruments through photographs and drawings, the subject cat- egory "Musical Instruments" brings to-

    gether the headings for all the musical instruments illustrated. Recordings of the music are available in two formats: Real- Audio and WaveForm. Each item in the audio collection is cataloged in detail. A record for an audio file might contain the following fields: title, performer, audio for- mat (RealAudio, WAV), notes (e.g. date and place of recording, impressions by Sidney Robertson Cowell, language of the songs), hyperlinked subject headings, re- lated names (also hyperlinked), medium of the original recording, call number, and digital identification number. This amount of detail makes material in this collection very easy to find, especially because there is also free-text keyword searching for both the bibliographic description and the full text of the collection. The level of descrip- tion, however, varies from collection to col-

    lection. The Sidney Robertson Cowell archival collection already had detailed cat- aloging on note cards by Cowell herself, al- lowing for a migration of format rather than requiring extensive additional cata- loging. Unfortunately, the finding aids of neither the University of California nor the Library of Congress collections are linked to the site.

    As the contents and descriptions of col- lections vary, so does the arrangement of each collection's index. For example, for "The Leonard Bernstein Collection, ca. 1920-1989" there is a title index, a name index, and a conglomerate subject index. The subject index is arranged by series within the archival collection, then alpha- betically within each series, although the se- ries are not labeled as such in the subject index. So far, about 400,000 items have been processed and arranged in four se- ries: photographs, correspondence, Thurs- day Evening Previews scripts, and Young People's Concerts scripts. The music manu- scripts and many other materials have yet to be processed. The Library of Congress has decided to make available each series as it is processed, a benefit for researchers be- cause several years will be required to

    process the entire collection. Each item is

    cataloged in detail and a digital facsimile provided. One disappointment is that let- ters are often not scanned in full; the top and bottom where the address and signa- ture are located are sometimes omitted. A

    perusal of the name index reveals that most important twentieth-century musical fig- ures are included in the collection, an indi- cation of the importance of the collection. The collection's finding aid is also avail- able, making it easier for a researcher to see the structure of the collection. The finding aid was also not complete at the time of writing.

    The Learning Page No doubt the American Memory Project

    is an extremely valuable resource for schoolteachers as well as researchers. To aid teachers in use of the materials, the dig- ital library has included a "Learning Page," the third path into the collection. There is a learning page for the entire AMP as well as one for each collection. These pages help teachers design lesson plans and pose questions to students as they investigate the collections. Attached to individual collec-


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  • Digital Media Reviews

    tions are sections on "Special Presenta- tions," to provide context for the collection, and "Historical Eras," a list of historical pe- riods best represented by that collection. "Related Collections and Exhibits" provides hyperlinks to other collections or exhibits. "Other Resources" includes further reading or additional online resources. "Search Tips" and "Viewing Tips" provide nontech- nical explanations of searching and the software needed to view or hear materials. With the exception of the questions and the material about teaching strategy, the in- formation on the learning page is taken from various parts of the collection page. Placing all information about teaching and learning on one page makes the organiza- tion of lesson plans easier.


    This rich and enormous resource has succeeded in its goal of serving patrons of all ages. The Learning Page caters to a younger audience, and the natural language search commands and plain-language ex- planations of technical information allow access to a wide audience. The detailed cat- aloging allows for excellent retrieval, an improvement over the amorphous web searches with which patrons are all too fa-

    miliar. In addition, the ability to do free- text searches without controlled terms gives users freedom to explore without fear of "making mistakes" in their search terms.

    In a review of this size, one could not dis- cuss in detail all of the important music col- lections that are included in AMP. It is hoped that this discussion will lead readers to explore first-hand this wealth of informa- tion. The inclusion of additional art music collections has the potential to bring a whole new audience to the site. The Library of Congress and other music libraries rich in archives should be encouraged to con- tinue their collaboration and make more collections available online. Although the Encoded Archival Description project is a big leap forward in bibliographic access, the American Memory Project provides much more-access to the materials in the collections themselves. The inclusion of both archival collections and selected printed sheet music collections with fo- cused topics, such as the "African-American Sheet Music" collection, is to be applauded. Both archival and print materials form sig- nificant aspects of the American memory.

    JUDY Tsou University of Washington

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    Article Contentsp. 453p. 454p. 455p. 456p. 457

    Issue Table of ContentsNotes, Second Series, Vol. 57, No. 2 (Dec., 2000), pp. 281-528Front Matter [pp. 281-288]Evolution of an Edition the Case of Beethoven's Opus 2: Part 1 Punches, Proofs, and Printings the Seven States of Artaria's First Edition [pp. 289-329]Trends in the Price of Music Monographs and Scores as Reflected in Notes, 1995-99 [pp. 330-342]Notes for NOTES [pp. 343-346]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 347-350]Review: untitled [pp. 350-351]Review: untitled [pp. 352-355]Review: untitled [pp. 355-357]Review: untitled [pp. 358-360]Review: untitled [pp. 360-362]Review: untitled [pp. 362-364]Review: untitled [pp. 364-366]Review: untitled [pp. 367-368]Review: untitled [pp. 368-370]ReferenceReview: untitled [pp. 370-371]Review: untitled [pp. 371-373]Review: untitled [pp. 373-374]Review: untitled [pp. 374-376]Review: untitled [pp. 376-377]Review: untitled [pp. 377-378]

    Fourteenth to Eighteenth CenturiesReview: untitled [pp. 378-379]Review: untitled [pp. 380-382]Review: untitled [pp. 382-383]Review: untitled [pp. 383-386]Review: untitled [pp. 386-388]Review: untitled [pp. 388-389]

    Nineteenth CenturyReview: untitled [pp. 389-391]Review: untitled [pp. 391-393]Review: untitled [pp. 393-394]Review: untitled [pp. 394-396]Review: untitled [pp. 396-397]Review: untitled [pp. 397-398]

    Twentieth CenturyReview: untitled [pp. 399-401]Review: untitled [pp. 401-402]Review: untitled [pp. 403-404]Review: untitled [pp. 404-406]Review: untitled [pp. 406-408]Review: untitled [pp. 408-409]Review: untitled [pp. 409-410]Review: untitled [pp. 410-412]Review: untitled [pp. 412-414]Review: untitled [pp. 414-415]Review: untitled [pp. 415-417]Review: untitled [pp. 417-418]Review: untitled [pp. 418-420]Review: untitled [pp. 420-422]Review: untitled [pp. 422-423]

    Books Recently Published [pp. 424-452]Digital Media ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 453-457]

    Music Publishers' Catalogs [pp. 458-460]Music ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 461-464]Review: untitled [pp. 464-468]Review: untitled [pp. 469-471]Review: untitled [pp. 471-472]Review: untitled [pp. 473-480]Review: untitled [pp. 481-482]

    Music Received [pp. 483-493]Back Matter [pp. 494-528]


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