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Library of Congress Unveils a Cache of Musical Gems

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On February 7, the Library of Congress quietly announced the debut of the Music Treasures Consortium Web site, featuring digital images of manuscripts and early editions from Juilliard, the Library of Congress, the Morgan Library and Museum, Harvard University’s Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, the New York Public Library, and the British Library.

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Hosted by the Library of Congress as part of its Performing Arts Encyclopedia, the site provides a single portal for access to musical primary source materials held at all of these respective institutions. Its debut was the culmination of years of planning to overcome complicated technical challenges so that researchers and musicians from around the world could gain access to these treasures using standard library search protocols. It came about with the visionary support of Juilliard’s chairman, Bruce Kovner, who, from the time he donated the extraordinary Juilliard Manuscript Collection to us, in 2006, encouraged digitization as a means for access. 

Why is it so complicated to search for digital music manuscripts? A Google search for these three words brings up a variety of sites, some of which do in fact contain digital music manuscripts (such as the Harvard Music Library site), as well as some sites that merely contain references to these words. Now what if the researcher wants to look specifically for digital music manuscripts of works by Brahms? Here a Google search will again bring up some relevant sites, but certainly not all. Further, such simple searches cannot reveal the type of detailed information on music manuscripts or early editions that libraries provide through their online catalogs. 

When the consortium was established, in 2007, our goal was to provide a single portal where users could find images and descriptions of music manuscripts from various collections. The images themselves reside on each institution’s own Web site, and the descriptive metadata is taken from each institution’s online catalog. We used the model of the Sheet Music Consortium Web site, which brings together vast collections of sheet music held by U.C.L.A., Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and Duke University. 

We also sought insight from the musicologists who use our collections, and established an advisory board consisting of Christoph Wolff (Harvard, Juilliard), Jeffrey Kallberg (University of Pennsylvania), Philip Gossett (University of Chicago), and Laurent Pugin (McGill University). When notified of the site’s debut, Kallberg wrote, “Thanks for all you and your colleagues have done to bring this great site to fruition. It will be an enormous benefit to anyone interested in music.”

Visitors to the Music Treasures Consortium site may search by keyword, or browse the holdings of each institution. The site will continue to grow, with additions of new images from member institutions, as well as possible additions from new library partners.

 

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