Opening up the digital archive:
insights on openness in digitisation and digital archiving from the InterMusE project

R. Cowgill (chair)1, C. Armstrong1, A. Dix2 and J. S. Downie3

1 University of York, UK
2 Computational Foundry, Swansea University, Wales, UK
3 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Panel at International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML) Congress, Prague, Czech Republic, 24-29 July 2022.


Funded by the AHRC’s UK-US New Directions for Digital Scholarship in Cultural Institutions programme, InterMusE is a two-year project that is developing new ways of capturing and linking different forms of data around musical events to form a dynamic, open-access digital archive. Our project is attempting to incorporate and interrogate different forms of openness, from opening up the digitisation process to the use of open source code and Linked Open Data. In doing so, both the methods and outcomes of our project will be accessible and usable for all. Although a noble aspiration with the potential to transform approaches to digital archiving initiatives, openness raises a number of challenges and even contradictions.

  • How might we embrace inconsistencies in digitised materials when opening up the digitisation process to non-professionals?
  • How do we strike a balance between open access and issues around IP and GDPR?
  • Similarly, can we (and should we) find a balance between our aspirations for openness and the restrictions that may be imposed on content by our collection-holding partners?
  • How might we adapt the way we produce metadata in order to maximize opportunities of openness?
  • Can we adapt concepts from open source software to meet our need for openness (e.g. beta releases, agile and waterfall approaches)?

This panel discussion brings together members of the InterMusE project team from humanities and computing backgrounds to demonstrate how we are working to address and embrace the challenges of openness. In encountering such a diverse range of issues within the context of a single project, we find ourselves at a unique vantage point from which to highlight and attempt to unpick the implications, challenges and opportunities of openness for both community digitisation projects and broader approaches to handling music ephemera found in library and archive collections.

Keywords: musicology, performance history, community data, digitisation, digital archives, digital humanities, ephemera, concerts, linked data, open data






Alan Dix 26/7/2022