Wednesday, April 22, 2009

E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African American Sheet Music

The E. Azalia Hackley Collection of the Detroit Public Library was the first to showcase the contribution of African Americans in the performing arts.  The collection contains over 600 works that feature African American themes published between 1799 and 1922.  The digital form of the collection was created in 2003 and originally was to include just 19th century works.  Later, 20th century works were added up to 1922 because they were in the public domain.  The collection was started in 1943 and contains other 20th century works.  The site mentions that future evaluation of works that come into the public domain will determine whether to add them to the digital collection or not.

Materials can be searched or browsed by title, lyric first lines, composer, contributor, subject, and dates.  Search or browse results pages contain thumbnails and quick descriptive information. The description pages contain full metadata and links to view a larger version of the image in an external viewer, similar to the DSpace I saw in my example from last week.  The description pages also contain a digital ID number and OCLC number for further cross reference.

For the most part, the titles and images of the sheet music covers would be considered mildly to outrageously offensive today.  But it offers an incredible snapshot into the times.  Also interesting is that the site includes some audio examples of selected works.   However, they are in MIDI format.  The project info page explains that this is because of the small file size and the availability on the internet of files of public domain works.  Only 7 audio examples are provided.

The site is a nice example of a digital collection that uses Greenstone, but incorporates it into a conventional website.  Other examples simply try to incorporate style sheets into the Greenstone environment.  The Hackley Collection keeps its supplemental information pages on their main web server and link to the Greenstone server only for the items.  The supplemental pages are very informative and lead users to many sources to learn more.  The "Project Info" page very helpfully includes information about the project's history, funding, and selection process, but also tells us technical data about image creation and metadata standards used.  It also mentions the use of Greenstone software.

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