Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ethnomusicology collection, University of Washington

University of Washington
University Libraries, Digital Collection
Ethnomusicology Musical Instrument Collection

The ethnomusicology collection at the University of Washington is comprised of 328 items. These include photographs, video clips, and sounds recordings. The collection was begun in 1997 and is partially maintained by an international artist residence funded by the university. The website indicates that the University of Washington libraries try to digitize collections they feel are unique, large, or especially relevant to the acquisition goals of the libraries. All the collections use a scalable scanning technology called ContentDM, a software product of Online Computer Library Center (OCLC).
The metadata for the ethnomusicology collection varies. If a user browses the collection, each still image of the objects have a rich metadata element field. All the element fields are: title; ID number (the purpose of this number was not clear); variations on the instrument names; geographical origin of the instrument; short narrative descriptions with hyperlinks; Hornbostel-Such numbers; keywords; physical dimensions; accessories, such as carrying cases or protective wraps; the title of the primary digital collection the object is associated with; an image number, which is displayed as a file format and seemingly random; a departmental contact for the object; the repository, or physical location of the object; a field denoted as “type” which usually is filled in as “image”; and the digital reproduction specifications used. These elements are not listed for the video or sound recordings, but on the left side of the display is a menu that allows users to link to an image which will then display all the above metadata.
The still photographs are zoomed in at 100 percent for the initial viewing. A user may zoom out and embed or hide a thumbnail on each object page. There are measurement and scale tools near each photographed object to aid in understanding the physical qualities of the instrument and spatial relationships with other instruments. The search functions range from alphabetized lists by region or ensembles for audio and video files clustered under a general browse link and a keyword entry box on the collection’s home page is situated just below these clustered links. Each clustered search object has a menu on the left side to allow a user to search, by clicking on each possible link for the extensive metadata. The metadata is associated with only one version of the object and resembles a ‘master file’ for users. Some of the instruments were digitized from multiple views and each view is considered a separate file when searching for an item. For example, a search on the keyword “bell” produces two images of a “full extension” instrument. One view is labeled a “close up” and the other “bell forward”, but only one has metadata assigned to it indicating each image is the same bell.
One issue that user may have with this collection is how many ways there are to search. Each object has a plethora of links that navigate to various views, different media, or lists of related instruments. A user studying or familiar with the University of Washington’s ethnomusicology instrument collection vocabulary would have little difficulty in finding an image. My knowledge of the correct titles for Tibetan instruments of limited to ‘bell’ or ‘beribboned’ which are rare in the metadata and only return one or two results. This collection seems designed for scholars or people seeking to expand their repertoire of non-western musical instruments.

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