Saturday, July 2nd, 2016...11:00 am

Shining a spotlight on Hidden Collections

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Dana Finishes 20160602

At “hands in the air” in the style of MasterChef at the end of her own arduous MasterSurvey, Dana Gee marks the finish of our own six-month endurance test.

Our Hidden Collections Grant to explore strange new worlds of backlog, to seek out new sheet music, to boldly go where no one has gone before, officially came to an end on June 3. While the grant was not fully funded, I’m pleased to announce that during the survey we were able to locate and accession almost 60,000 scores on-site in Houghton and the Theatre Collection, as well as add access to many other already-accessioned collections.

By the side of the Zuyder Zee

The change in funding called for a change in plan. Shifting to a six-month scenario caused us to focus all of our cunning: how could we most efficiently harness this time to create order from chaos, as well as provide the most access possible to users? We had always planned to follow up on this project with a larger cataloging project, so we kept careful metrics on how much time test scores required to get full MARC cataloging. Without all of the specific details brought out in the controlled vocabulary of MARC, exploiting the awesome power of sheet music to illuminate popular culture and history through digital humanities projects remains a dream. Along with the details discussed in the original blog linked above, significant amounts of performer and performance information, photos and illustrations like She’s Irish, below,

Shes Irish detail

will one day be able to illuminate trends and changes in taste and focus throughout American history. But in the meantime, we decided the best way to provide interim access would be to do some subject analysis “on the fly,” to provide users with links to boxes which would most likely provide them with examples in their areas of interest.

LCSH columns

During her survey, Dana kept two sets of subject headings, one for significant trends (that is to say, subjects representing more than one score in a given box), and one for outlying odds and ends (which might represent only one score in a box) so that users would know what to expect to find in a box in which they might have to prowl through quite a few scores.


Users can now peruse the title list of newly-accessioned collections, the subject trends, and the outliers. As you page down through the subjects lists, you’ll see that each heading is linked to the call number of the collection, which you can search in HOLLIS (browse by Other call number) to find more details. Please use these lists in conjunction with the title listing, as overall subjects of individual collections were not included in the subject lists.

Word Cloud

Most of all, have fun exploring the riches of our spectacular historical sheet music collections!

[Thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, for contributing this post.]

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