I decided to put up a random post this week and highlight one of my favorite digital archives. It is somewhat related to the reading that covered the conference discussion by Seamus Ross. While reading through his discussion about the preservation of digital objects and the need for information professionals to move forward in solving the problems faced by curators of digital objects, I thought of the digital archives of the New York Philharmonic. The ever-growing digital collections of academic and public archives and libraries as well as organizational archives need problems of preservation to be solved. It’s great to see an organization such as the New York Philharmonic preserving its own history and finding solutions to preservation will only add to the ability of other organizations to do their part in preserving their history.
Anyway, here is an introduction to the digital archives of the NY Philharmonic.
The digital archive is a recent addition to the New York Philharmonic’s main website (http://nyphil.org), a website that mainly serves a commercial purpose by providing concert, performance and ticket purchasing information. Links to the digital archive can be found in each section of the website with the main link provided under the “About Us” section of the website. The NY Philharmonic digital archive was created through a grant by the Leon Levy Foundation, a foundation that assists arts and humanities organizations with projects to preserve the historical and cultural heritage their organizations. The New York Philharmonic is one of the oldest orchestras in the United States, celebrating its 169th season this year.
While there is a definite feel of scholarly pursuit and usage to the holdings in the NY Philharmonics digital archives there is no requirement for special permission or a login to access any of the online documents through the archives website. The digital archives “open” access allows for anyone from the most serious research scholar to the everyday music lover to explore its holdings. The website clearly explains what is available through the digital archives and even provides an explanation as to why only certain documents are currently available. The digital archives highlights and provides access to items from 1943-1970, what they have deemed the “International Era.” The International Era was chosen because it was during this period that the world, along with the orchestra experienced the most rapid and significant change. Technology greatly improved with the invention of the long playing record and television, one of America’s greatest composers and conductors, Leonard Bernstein, served as the music director and women finally joined the ranks as full members of the orchestra. Another valuable component of this period of the orchestra’s history is that this period created the greatest amount and variety of items to preserve. Along with the capturing of the paper history through a variety of documents, the history of the NY Philharmonic during this period was captured through photographs and sound and film recordings. The NY Philharmonics digital archives is still a work in progress but the brilliant strategy of providing access to a smaller sample of items by highlighting one of the most rich historical periods of the orchestra creates a glimpse into the exciting possibilities for this digital resource.