Changing names, changing fortunes

On this date in 1803 was born the composer Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine.

Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine is depicted leaning towards a sleeping child. She is wearing a bonnet and a dark dress with a white collar.

Millicent Ann Mary Kennedy-Erskine; Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine. Stipple and line engraving by Thomas Anthony Dean, published 1833. National Portrait Gallery. NPG D36555.

She was christened Augusta FitzClarence, however her names and titles developed over time. Several of these are brought together in her entry in VIAF, the Virtual International Authority File.

A screenshot listing many names by which Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine was known, including Augusta FitzClarence and Augusta Gordon-Hallyburton.

Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).

The Loeb Music Library recently digitized a volume containing four sets of printed scores by English women composers, the first of which is a set of songs by Augusta Kennedy-Erskine. The volume belonged to John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland (1784-1859), who also adopted a new name: until 1841 he went by Lord Burghersh. He had a long career as a diplomat, soldier and politican, co-founded the Royal Academy of Music in 1822 and owned many music books. His collection is now scattered among music libraries worldwide (browse WorldCat for Fane, John to see some of their new homes). 

The front cover of a volume of music. Gilt letters on a red morocco label say Lord Burghersh.

Mus 505.5. Loeb Music Library, Harvard University.

Earlier this year, we added this important book to RISM, the International Inventory of Musical Sources. An astute RISM colleague immediately got in touch to let us know that another item bound into the volume, a set of songs by the composer Mary Radcliff Chambers, is actually cited in an auction house’s description of a collection of materials belonging to Chambers, to which the dealer has given the title The Banker’s Daughter: family archive illustrating the consequences of bankruptcy. Following a family tragedy, Chambers took to the stage to support her family. She also published her compositions. The collection Simple Ballads was apparently produced in both an unadorned version (“just a single copy in institutions worldwide, at Harvard’s Loeb Music Library”) as well as in a luxe edition prepared specially for Queen Victoria.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Peter Laurence, Sound Recording Librarian

What does a Sound Recording Librarian do?

I oversee our library’s sound and visual media collections, which range from early disc recordings over a century old, to newly released digital AV content. My work includes selecting new recordings that support our music department and students, setting priorities for preserving and digitizing our older recordings, answering research questions, and teaching and outreach. I especially enjoy the outreach part, and right now I’m very focused on new ways of making our collections accessible for research.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in the Music Library?

Having 9th Wonder post photos of our Classic Crates hip hop collection to his Instagram account. We talk a lot about discoverability in libraries these days. That was it!

What project are you most proud of that you’ve worked on in the Music Library?

Our library has a large collection of early Arab and Arab-American 78rpm shellac disc records that was undiscoverable for many years. As of last year, we have catalogued around 550 of these in detail (in Arabic) in our HOLLIS catalog. It was a great collaborative project that succeeded due to the efforts of many others besides me, including three grad students (Farah Zahra, Farah El-Sharif and Faris Casewit) and and their language work over several years, a Middle East colleague in Widener Library (Nada Hussein) who did the initial training, and our own music cataloger (Anne Adams) who prepared the data for the catalog.

What’s your favorite library-related moment in a movie, novel or TV show?

I think I have to pick a song on this one. “Faster Pussycat To The Library!” by Sam Phillips: “If you don’t know what to do, I’ll look it up for you.”

Where do you find comfort and strength in a scary and unknown time?

Harvard offered a wonderful mindfulness and compassion meditation class this summer for library staff called Skills for Inner and Outer Belonging. It made a big difference for me, and I’ve continued this practice for at least 15 minutes in the mornings before work.

Is there a collection at Harvard Library that you’d like to see digitized and made freely available to the world?

It’s tempting to pick one archival collection, but I would have to choose all the rare and still digitally unavailable “commercial” recordings that we have in our recordings collections, especially our Archive of World Music.

Elisha Jewell is seated and holding a recording device. She is facing Peter Laurence, who is also seated. They are both holding vinyl records. There is an open archival box behind them.

Preservation Services intern Elisha Jewell interviews Sound Recording Librarian Peter Laurence about the Classic Crates collection, 2019. Photograph: Catherine Badot-Costello, Book Conservator for Special Collections

« Older posts

© 2020 Loeb Music Library

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑