Academic journal article Notes

American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library

Academic journal article Notes

American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library

Article excerpt

American Memory: Historical Collections for the National Digital Library. http://memory.loc.gov/. 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 collections 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 seventy fully digitized collections. Its contents range from manuscript letters to baseball cards, daguerreotypes to digital photographs, wax cylinder recordings to commercial jazz recordings, music manuscript scores to printed sheet music, and film clips to motion pictures. This wealth of resources is intended for researchers, students, 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, approximately $60 million from both public and private sources has been spent on the project. Private donors include both individuals a nd corporations; noteworthy are Ameritech's three-year competitive grants. These funds provided support for institutions nationwide. Of the seventy collections, eighteen contain music or are music-related, with seven more music-related collections in preparation. This review concentrates 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 presidential 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 transcribe 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 c ollection 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 traditional Omaha Native American music; and Alan Jabbour's "Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier," performed by octogenarian 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 everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941 through audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, an d ephemera collected during two field trips. …

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