Bound for Glory: Binders’ Volumes in a 21st Century Reading

  George Boziwick, New York Public Library; Robert Kosovsky, New York Public Library; Mark Scharff, Washington University; Robert Cunningham, Boston Public Library; Andrea Cawelti, Harvard University; Ralph Hartsock, University of North Texas; Mary Kay Dugg

Rising with the popularity of printed music, binders’ volumes became a particularly important and popular cultural artifact around 1830, flourishing into the 1870s and beyond. Since the beginning, these volumes have presented a conundrum to librarians: how does one deal with a compilation of different musical works? How can cataloging techniques help researchers unlock the riches of these volumes? Binders’ collections illuminate numerous aspects of society including material and artistic culture, economics, legal procedures, local activity, politics, and provenance. Historians interested in these fields are examining volumes for everything from trends in music taste in 19th century California, to their largely unmined data concerning women’s cultural life (in many cases the only source of information about this subject).

The burgeoning field of digital humanities has also found fodder in these artifacts, and can enable new views into complex issues of provenance using geolocation and other tools to create maps, illuminate connections, and more. In this panel presentation, members of the Sheet Music Interest Group will bring their expertise to presentations about all of these topics. Providing the first in-depth MLA examination since the 1980s, the Group hopes to inspire a new look at an often overlooked format, by showing how new work flows and technologies can bring out the extraordinary stories of cultural history found between its covers.

Close Menu