Test Bed: A Virtual Library of 19th-Century Sheet Music


The California Sheet Music Project (www.sims.berkeley.edu/~mkduggan/neh.html) includes images of some 2,000 editions (10,000 images) of 19th-century California sheet music, rare material on fragile 19th-century paper, with associated sound and video files. The Project was designed to be an image test bed for extending the capacity of MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging, the standard digital format for library catalogues) for multimedia description and retrieval through the MARC/SGML/HTML search engine of Ray Larson (Cheshire II). The funding source, the California State Library (federal funds [1997-1998; 1999] through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title IIB, demanded a retrieval product capable of searching descriptive alphabetic information through established international bibliographic networks in the MARC format to retrieve music images. The World Wide Web and the MARC field for web links ( 856) have become robust enough to carry links for sound and video, allowing interaction of modalities and multimodal query formation. The challenge for information retrieval of the test bed of digitized sheet music lies in the importance of the material as (1) music (songs, piano, guitar and other instrumental music), (2) art (covers with engravings, woodcuts, lithographs, attached photographs), (3) multicultural texts, (4) sound and video, (5) regional history, and (6) printing and publishing history (engraved plates, hot type, plate processes), each important to a constituency.


1. Music Part of the grant proposal asked for funding to encode incipits of song verses and refrains for digital retrieval using the system of grant associate Garrett Bowles (Music, UCSD). Currently only unsearchable scanned images of the music are available, with access to alphabetic information (composer, title, date, instrument, etc.).

2. Art By August, 1999, retrieval of the full depth of 400 dpi TIFF images becomes available through the JTIP (Jpeg Tiled Image Pyramid) image file format Project Associate MIP [Museum Informatics Project (www.mip.berkeley.edu)] and Netimage (www.avelem.fr). The original large format of published music maintained in the archival digital files is available through JTIP for zoom review on a monitor, and full-size

printing for performance. MARC coding using the Library of Congress Thesaurus of Graphics Materials for subjects and genre categories for types of artistic processes allow retrieval of material pictured on the sheet music covers. MARC authority records allow retrieval of all variant forms of associated names (portraits of composers and performers, artists, printers) and organizations (buildings, city scenes, parks, ranches, advertising products).

3. Multicultural Texts A major reason for the funding of the project was the importance of the music for the multicultural history of the West, including alphabetic texts in many languages.

4. Sound and Video As sound recordings and videos associated with the music of the project come to light, they are digitized in segments matching the printed music and entered as web links in the MARC records. The multimodal cataloging rules of MARC allow multimodal query formation. Thus one record might be retrievable in image, MIDI sound, analog sound, and video, with subject and genre access specific to a medium. MARC has only recently been extended to allow inclusion of URLs of "related resources" and "versions of resources."

5. Regional History. Historical documents with associated events (opening of the railroad, elections), places, names (composers, librettists, performers, printers, publishers, dedicatees), organizations. The MARC records with their high level of authority control provide access to titles and named individuals, the graphic thesaurus terms provide access to the cover images, but the text and musical idioms are not currently searchable.

6. Printing and Publishing History. A virtual library, with scanned images of many issues of the same musical work, provides a detailed picture of the music printer/publisher at work. The project has found as many as 8 issues of a single work (varying in performers pictured on the cover, insertion in publishers' series, touted as an international hit, etc.) and 5 publications of the same title in the small 19th-century state of California. A retrieval system that allows searching by engraved plate number and by name of printer or publisher brings together varying issues, but finding the optimal way of displaying them on the screen of today's monitor is challenging.

Author Information

Mary Kay Duggan

Music; School of Information Management and Systems

University of California, Berkeley

102 South Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-4600

510-642-5764; Fax: 510-643-5323; mkduggan@sims.berkeley.edu

Suggested Readings

Bowles, Garrett. Thematic Catalog of the Works of Marin Marais. Http:orpheus.ucsd.edu/music/ghb.html

Duggan, Mary Kay. A California Sheet Music Project.@ RLIN Focus Issue 29 (December 1997), 8-9.

Duggan, Mary Kay. "California Sheet Music." The APHA Newsletter No. 130 (Summer 1998), 4-5.

A856 Electronic Location and Access.@ In US MARC Concise Format for Bibliographic Data. Library of Congress, Network Development and MARC Standards Office, 1999. Http://lcweb.loc.gov/marc/bibliographic/ecbdhome.htm