Imagine a world without sound. Your favorite music – gone. No more conversations with loved ones, oral tradition is extinct, beloved stories lose their impact. A world without sound would be a world without texture, without emphasis.
This is the world of document-based archival collections. The printed word is great for many things – conveying information, documenting events, preserving history. But it can lack the urgency, the emotional connection of information delivered in someone’s voice, through the power of sound. It’s the difference between reading a piece of piano sheet music and actually hearing it performed the way an audience in 1906 would have experienced it: played by a musician on a jazz joint upright or in a grand concert hall on a Steinway grand.
Here at the Digitization Projects Group, we wanted to give our users a new way to experience our collections, an aural avenue for connecting with the materials we digitize and put online every day. In short, we wanted to add a new, audible dimension to our materials, and that’s why we created the Sound in Collections podcast, the first episode of which is available to stream at the end of this post.
The name Sound in Collections is a play on the phrase “found in collections,” a phrase collections managers use to describe objects they come across in their collections that they weren’t expecting to find there. In museums, that can mean an item in a box that wasn’t listed on the deed of gift, or something tucked in a corner with no accompanying paperwork whatsoever. Those items are marked “FIC” and added to a list of things for a curator or collections manager to investigate for future disposition.
For us, we liked the idea of highlighting items from our collections that you may not expect to experience in a sound-based format. We plan to offer things like dramatic readings from our Civil War letters collection, readings (in Russian and English) of items from the Keston Digital Archive, and performances of musical pieces from our Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music, plus interviews and in-depth analysis of materials in our collections.
If you have an idea for something you’d like to see in upcoming podcasts, email us at email@example.com or comment on this blog post. We’ll incorporate your requests and suggestions into upcoming episodes. Once we get a few episodes under our belt, we plan to add them to Baylor’s selection of materials available in iTunesU.
So enjoy our first foray into audio excellence; we hope you’ll agree that this new feature from the Digitization Projects Group will be music to your ears.
Click below to listen to episode one of Sound in Collections.