Scottish Music Centre – Case Study in Archive Digitisation (Watch!)

Profile photo of Alasdair Pettinger By Alasdair Pettinger
31 March 2014

Scottish Music Centre: Digitisation Project from Scottish Music Centre Education on Vimeo.

The Scottish Music Centre has an extensive collection of over 38,000 items as part of its remit to document and promote the musical life of the country, past and present.

We have been acquiring material for over forty years: sheet music, sound recordings, books, articles, letters, diaries, photographs, concert programmes.

Most of our acquisitions now arrive in digital formats that are easy to store, preserve and make available to the thousands of people who use our services every year.

But much of the older material is in a precarious condition or at least needs careful handling – tape recordings on cassette or open reel, for example, or original manuscripts.

If someone wants to look at or listen to these items they must visit us in person and consult them under special conditions.

Even some digital formats are becoming obsolete or face an uncertain future: we need to make sure they are saved for future generations too.

With the help of a grant from AmbiITion Scotland’s Make IT Happen fund we have begun to convert the most vulnerable items in our collection into them into digital formats that will secure their long-term survival and wider circulation.

We bought hardware, software, trained a team of dedicated volunteers, and got started.

We have digitised over 2500 items in the last year: handwritten manuscripts, old radio broadcasts, demo tapes, field recordings, out-of-print songbooks, and vinyl releases that have never been reissued.

Soundclips and sample pages can now be freely accessed online.

Where we have permission, complete recordings and scores can be purchased in downloadable form. And for the first time they are now overtaking our sales of physical items.

We have reunited artists with material they thought was lost forever.

We are responding much more effectively to requests for music from all over the world – supplying performers with the material they need and helping researchers enjoy easy access to rare items they would otherwise have had to wait months for.

We are well-equipped to continue the programme for many years to come.

And with a new website in development we are devising new ways of showcasing the gems in our collection and the stories behind them.

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