Category: Isham Memorial Library (page 1 of 15)

Meet the Problem Solvers: Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and Houghton Music Cataloger

For the last in our Meet the Problem Solvers series, Kerry Masteller spoke with Christina Linklater about metadata, microforms and magic.

Red, orange and purple tulips grown in a sun-dappled garden.

You can take the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library out of Ottawa, but she’ll fill her Somerville garden with tulips.

So, tell us a little bit about what you do, Christina.

In my role as Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library, I mostly manage the movement of special collections materials at the Music Library. I also co-administer our exhibition program with my colleague Patricia O’Brien, provide reference assistance to patrons and direct the United States RISM Office. That’s one half of my week. The rest of my week is spent as a music cataloger at Houghton Library.

What’s different about those two jobs?

Well, at Isham I’m in a public-facing role most of the time, ready to assist anyone who needs help with Isham’s materials specifically or special collections research generally. At Houghton I spend my entire day at a desk in the stacks, making records that then appear in HOLLIS.

What role do special collections play at the University?

I’ve seen students encounter Isham’s collections in the classroom, as well as for their research and to discover new repertoire. I also think that the presence of Isham is valuable for students as a place to meet visiting scholars, who find that it is simpler to travel to Isham with its 40,000 microforms than to visit multiple libraries. Bringing together researchers at different stages of their careers is something that special collections is uniquely suited to; while we exist at and for Harvard, a collection like Isham’s can’t help but attract a wide user community, and it’s really nice to witness those interactions.

What’s an Isham Memorial Library secret that more people should know?
That the lives and works lists of composers, particularly composers who are not white men, are much more complex, important interesting than most reference sources can tell you. For instance, Isham’s Joyce Mekeel collection was catalogued after the Grove article came out, and the finding aid says so much about Mekeel and her work that that writer simply couldn’t have known. Same with the collections of Fred Ho and Aziz El-Shawan: all stories can be enriched by looking at archival materials, but it’s especially striking in the stories of people like Mekeel and El-Shawan who published not at all or very little in their lifetimes, leaving these large bodies of manuscript scores that are just quietly waiting for you at Isham.

If we could magically go to a concert right now, what would we be hearing?

How magical is this performance? Like, can we bring people back from the dead?

 It is as magical as you want it to be.

Right! Let’s go to Glenn Gould’s cottage on Lake Simcoe, then, where he’ll play the Goldberg Variations. First the drastic 1955 version, followed by the twilight 1981 version. We’ll sleep well after that.

This interview was conducted by Reference and Digital Program Librarian Kerry Masteller. It was condensed and edited by Christina Linklater for clarity.

 

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.

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