An important collection of rare classical music recordings will soon be available via York Digital Library, the University of York’s online multimedia repository (http://dlib.york.ac.uk). This is the Music Preserved archive, which is held by the Borthwick Institute for Archives. Music Preserved is an organisation which exists in order to preserve rare music recordings, and their collections include recordings donated by figures such as the conductor Charles Mackerras, tenor Richard Lewis and opera enthusiast the 7th Earl of Harewood. Many of the recordings are unique records of particular performances. An ongoing project, involving the Department of Music, aims to digitise the archive, which exists on a range of formats including reel-to-reel tapes, DATs (digital audio tapes), VHS, audio cassettes and acetate discs. Alongside this, a catalogue of the archive is being created.
Working with the Department of Music and the Borthwick Institute, the team behind York Digital Library has made the catalogue available online. It is possible to browse through the archive by its various sub-collections (such as the Harewood and Mackerras collections), or search using keywords such as composer name, musical work title, performer name or date. A new submission form allows cataloguers to continue to add new records and upload audio files directly to the Digital Library. The effort to digitise the collection is a more involved and time-consuming process than the cataloguing. However, a significant part of the collection is now digitised. The digital files for one collection, the Richard Lewis archive, are already uploaded to York Digital Library. Over the next few weeks, we will be uploading further recordings.