My research project has a name! If it looks rather obvious, then I’m pleased: I wanted it to be reasonably unambiguous. Since the whole point of legal deposit is to give a handful of long-established libraries gratuitous copies of everything published, I toyed with the idea of incorporating ‘free music’ in the name of the project, but decided against it – there were just too many ways this might be misconstrued!
My initial focus is on the music claimed under copyright from Stationers’ Hall by the University of St Andrews between 1710-1836. In the early nineteenth century, publishers were beginning to object to the university libraries’ claiming everything published, arguing that they were even claiming children’s books, novels and music. ‘Trifling’ material indeed, for institutions dedicated to learning law, philosophy and science! Nonetheless, music was collected, and that’s the subject of my research. Besides getting a thorough understanding of the collection’s history, I want to find out exactly what’s in it now, and to think about ways of encouraging reader engagement with this kind of material. Building upon research that was done in the pre-digital era, I hope also to be able to compare the present-day collection with comparable collections elsewhere.
My To-Do list got quite long when I started the project last Wednesday. I now have lists of names and contacts, publications to read, and a new folder in my beloved Mendeley account – a cloud-based bibliographical tool in which I keep all my references.
‘TITLE FOR PROJECT’ was marked as URGENT. Done! I started a project page here on this blog, but because of the way WordPress pages work, I’ll blog ongoing research activities and discoveries here on the blog homepage, keeping the project page for building up a fairly logical story. (When there are changes to that page, I’ll flag it up here, so you only need to follow this blog and you won’t miss anything!)
Teetering on the Brink …
I was sitting checking hyperlinks today – not the most riveting of activities, I must admit – when it dawned on me that my next research day is the last scheduled day that I’ll be working on the Bass Culture project that has occupied me for the past three years. (Every week, I’ve been working three days as a librarian and two as a postdoctoral researcher.) When I go to the research room on Tuesday, it will be to finish checking links for the database that will become a searchable website. Even though I’m sitting at a desk in my own institution, I’ve been part of a small research team for the length of the project.
But when I go to the research room on Wednesday, it will be to start setting things in train for the new project, investigating the historic Copyright Music Collection held at the University of St Andrews. The days I’ll be at my research desk won’t change, but there won’t be a team – just me. And while I’m getting stuck into the new project, I’ll also be thinking about how I can extend it, both in terms of scope, and the practicalities of making it happen.
Whilst I’ll still be in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – my natural habitat, it seems! – my focus will change, too. On Tuesday, I’ll be dealing with Scottish fiddle tunes that would have been performed by Scottish (and sometimes English) fiddlers for dancing, or keyboard players just for pleasure. On Wednesday, I’ll be starting to contemplate predominantly English publications imported to Scotland under copyright legislation. Indeed, when the University authorities went through their legal deposit acquisitions, I’ll wager they were rather stymied as to what to do with this musical stuff. Hardly the stuff for philosophers, theologians or mathematicians!
So my research topic is still in Scotland, but in a rather different context!
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PS Exchange Talk at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at 6 pm, 12th October.