Academic journal article The Hymn

Updating the Dictionary of North American Hymnology at Hymnary.org

Academic journal article The Hymn

Updating the Dictionary of North American Hymnology at Hymnary.org

Article excerpt

Background

For more than half a century, The Hymn Society has been developing the Dictionary of North American hymnology, which is intended to be a comprehensive index of hymnals published in North America through 1978. It was originally conceived as an American version of John Julian's Dictionary of hymnology, under the editorship of Leonard Ellinwood, FHS, noted historian of American church music and a librarian at the Library of Congress. Over the first thirty years, Ellinwood and many volunteers wrote hymn-text information onto IBM cards, which were arranged by first lines of hymns as they appeared in 4,876 hymnals published in the United States and Canada from 1640 to 1978. Upon Ellinwood 's retirement in 1984, Mary Louise VanDyke, FHS, of Oberlin College took over coordination of the project; in 1996, Paul Powell of Princeton Theological Seminary became editor and began the work of converting the data into electronic format. The result was a CD-ROM version of the Dictionary published in 2003. In 2007, Bill Clemmons of Point Loma Nazarene University began a project to convert the data into relational-database form, with the intent of providing access to the Dictionary via the World Wide Web.

In 2008, Harry Plantinga and Greg Scheer launched Hymnary.org, developed with funding from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship1 and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.2 Hymnary.org was designed to be a rich relational database for hymnody with powerful search capabilities, supporting the needs of scholars, worship planners, and the general hymn-loving public. In the summer of 2008, Plantinga and Clemmons discussed the possibility of combining projects. Clemmons was interested in developing the Dictionary of North American hymnology (DNAH) project on the Web, but he was not interested in maintaining or developing it long term. After extended discussion with Paul Powell, Tina Schneider (The Hymn Society's current director of research), and The Hymn Society's executive committee, all parties agreed to move the DNAH data onto Hymnary.org as a permanent home. The DNAH data were added to Hymnary.org in the summer of 2009.

Hymnary.org has become one of the largest and most-used hymnological resources on the Internet.3 Of the many Web sites that focus on hymnody, it is the only one that seeks to be comprehensive and scholarly. Hymnary.org and the DNAH combined have 4,956 hymnals and collections, with 188,197 hymn texts (in 1,218,772 instances) and 10,647 hymn tunes (in 38,605 instances) as of January 2010. In addition, there are 9,799 media files including scores, MIDI files, and page images.

As a significant source of near-comprehensive hymn publication information, Hymnary.org is an essential tool for scholars researching hymnology, but there is much more work to be done. We hope to make corrections and additions to the data that have been captured, and add hymnals that were unintentionally omitted. In addition, Hymnary.org is adding some hymnals that fall outside the DNAHs original scope (i.e., published after 1978 or outside North America). We also hope to scan hymnals and add page images, so that researchers will not only be able to determine when a hymn was published but also see how it actually looked in various hymnals. Hymnary.org is also working with publishers to get their current hymnals online and add media files such as scores, recordings, and page images that make the database more useful to both researchers and worship leaders.

Hymnary.org is the database of The Hymn Society, with policy set by an editorial committee having majority Society membership. Tina Schneider is now general editor of the DNAH project; she is joined on the editorial committee by Mary Louise Van Dyke, Peter Rehwaldt (former director of research for The Hymn Society), Harry Plantinga, Greg Scheer, David Music, and Hilary Donaldson. Society volunteers perform a large part of the data entry and editing, and a copy of the database is sent to The Hymn Society office each year as a backup. …

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