Volunteers wanted to describe Bodleian Library's music scores collection online

By Jessica Keating | 03 May 2012
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a website screenshot
The Bodleian's online musical manuscript collection runs to 4,000 pieces
Thousands of unknown musical scores from the mid-Victorian period have been made available online for the public as part of a new project launched in Oxford. 

The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford have a massive collection of music that has never been catalogued and so its exact contents remain a mystery to everyone.

Now the music pieces have been digitized and the public are being given the chance to peruse through them online and describe them, thus helping to create an online catalogue. This will help to make 4,000 pieces of popular Victorian piano music available to all.

A visit to the website, What's the score at the Bodleian?, allows participants to choose a musical piece such as The Favorite Galop, composed by E Vincent Smith, to describe.

Taking around 10 minutes, the process is very straightforward and doesn’t require any knowledge of reading or playing music to take part. Contributors simply have to write down what they see in a text box that clearly appears on each page.

Interestingly, the collection includes all the illustrated, decorative covers and advertisements from when the music was originally printed, so offering a previously unseen and alternative look at Victorian artwork, as well as musical tastes.

Performances of the music are also being encouraged and the project hopes to provide links on the website to audio and video recordings that people perform.

Martin Holmes, Alfred Brendal Curator of Music at the Bodleian Libraries, said: “In making the scores available online, they will not only be accessible for academic study and research but will also be there to enjoy for anyone who is interested in various aspects of Victorian music, culture and society.”
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