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Scanning project makes piano works available

August 29, 2018
Ray Heigemeir
Magic Fire excerpt

A pilot project in the Music Library to digitize sheet music and make images available in the SearchWorks catalog has produced its first collection, made up of 140 piano arrangements and transcriptions. Basic records for these items have long been in SearchWorks, and are now greatly enhanced with access to the digital images and options for close examination and download. This collection was chosen for scanning because the paper is too brittle to withstand the handling that results from practice and performance. The works are also in the public domain, making free, printable, digital files the ideal means of access and preservation. The original paper will be stored at SAL3.

Sheet music is a format of printed music dating back to the earliest music notations on paper or parchment. The New Grove Dictionary defines it as “unbound printed music usually of ten or fewer pages.” Genres may include popular songs, short keyboard works, opera arias, and other brief pieces, often published for music-making in the home. Over the years, Stanford acquired a massive amount of sheet music, including the multi-genre Box Collection (so named for its storage method); important special collections including the Charles Daniels Sheet Music Collection and the Fielder Collection of American Sheet Music, 1830-1950; and the popular song collection in the Archive of Recorded Sound, which numbers over 400,000 titles.

The scanning pilot project tested Goobi software and its interaction with the Argo administrative system at our satellite location. Goobi is open-source software that facilitates large-scale digital projects. Goobi manages image upload and processing steps including ordering of pages, cropping, deskewing, and quality control checks. Goobi works in concert with Argo, the administrative system for managing content in the Stanford Digital Repository, to upload images to the Depository and link them with their corresponding metadata.

Goobi screen shot

A sample Goobi screen

Images are scanned at the institutional standard of 400 dpi 24-bit color tiff files, using an Epson 11000 flatbed scanner.  One handy characteristic of sheet music is that it lays flat, allowing for excellent image capture without requiring a more complex lab set up. Bound volumes fall outside the scope of this project.

Future work will include developing a simple standard item-level metadata template for unprocessed collections. We will also create and cultivate a Spotlight exhibit space for all digitized sheet music as projects are completed.

Applause for the Sheet Music Scanning Project team: Dinah Handel, Digitization Service Manager; Ray Heigemeir and Kevin Kishimoto, Music Library Coordinators; Astrid Smith and Tony Calavano, Digital Production Group Coordinators; Arcadia Falcone and Jessica Cebra, Metadata points of contact; and Ben Albritton, Accessioning Service Manager. Production scanning and post-processing tasks were completed with care by Tyler Cole Mitchell, Stanford PhD candidate in musicology.


"Box Collection" items, before

Box Collection sheet music before scanning

Tyler Mitchell at the scan station

Tyler Mitchell sorts sheet music, then uploads and edits digital images in Goobi

Individual items ready for SAL3

Items are sleeved and barcoded, ready for SAL3 storage

Magic Fire, from Wagner's Die Walkure

Title page of Wagner's Feuerzauber (from Walküre); transcribed by L. Brassin 

Stanford listeners, click to stream this Wagner transcription in Naxos Music Library, and open the image viewer in SearchWorks to follow along with the score.

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