Full Circle

“Full circle” may seem a strange name for part of a blog about Moravian Music archival and music resources, but for me it is encapsulates a personal journey.

I started working at the Moravian Music Foundation on December 1, 2014 as the Cataloging Project Manager — newly retired from Cleveland State University’s Michael Schwartz Library. I’ll tell you the story in a nutshell; the blog is intended to spin out the whole story in two paths. One path will be somewhat technical and of interest to music librarians and the other path is my personal journey from graduate student at the University of Arizona to staff member at the Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The nutshell: The beginning of the circle for me started in 1974 as a graduate student in music history at the University of Arizona. For my Master’s thesis I selected a topic in Moravian Music because it met the advice from my mentor at Arizona, Dr. James Anthony: 1) I had to have access to primary source documents and 2) it had to be a project that I could live with for a long time. From the list of topics provided by Dr. Karl Kroeger, then director of the Moravian Music Foundation, I chose to work on a small book, A register of music performed in concert, Nazareth, Pennsylvania from 1796 to 1845 (in German).  My objective was to reconstruct the extraordinary repertoire performed by the Collegium Musicum in Nazareth based on existing manuscripts in the archives at the Archives of the Moravian Church, Northern Province. I spent a significant amount of time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the archives and the offices of the Moravian Music Foundation matching entries in the Verzeichniss to musical works in the archives by combing through newly minted catalog cards or earlier inventories. I say “newly minted catalog cards” because the Foundation had received a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to catalog the musical manuscripts in Bethlehem, PA and Winston-Salem, NC. So, I worked alongside Richard Claypoole and Robert Steelman. They manually produced the catalog cards for each work, describing in exquisite detail everything that could be recorded about those thousands of works. I finished the thesis, although Claypoole and Steelman had not yet cataloged the manuscripts from Nazareth.

I believe the project was the most difficult and mind-expanding work of my life. Technically, the Verzeichniss is, of course, written in 18th century German script, was cryptic with abbreviations and short phrases that come with a weekly record of activities, and most importantly, the Collegium Musicum Nazareth library no longer exists.

Back to the nutshell — after graduation from Arizona I entered another graduate program in library of science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Serving as a music cataloger, paraprofessional then professional, at Mills Music Library, provided the day job; however, I still worked on the Verzeichniss, updating my manuscript with new catalog numbers after Claypoole and Steelman completed the NEH cataloging project.

Over the years, the Moravian Music Foundation invited me to join the Board of Trustees, which gave me another opportunity to encourage the Trustees and staff to use technology to bring the Foundation’s treasures to light. We talked about everything from email, desktop computers, and fundraising software to online cataloging for the collections. My heart was always advocating for conversion of the manuscript card catalog to records which could be discovered online. In 2004  among the long range goals was the conversion of the catalogs. As a Trustee or as a library consultant, I worked with The Rev. Dr. Nola Reed Knouse to chip away at the “big hairy audacious goal” of converting the catalogs.  In 2014 the Trustees committed a portion of the significant bequest to the “cataloging project”.

So, what started for me in 1974, watching Richard Claypoole and Robert Steelman create catalog cards for the 18th century music manuscripts, has come full circle.  I am now leading the project that will bring those same manuscript descriptions online and discoverable to the world.

Conversion has begun

GemeinKat: catalog of the Moravian Gemeinde or community

Conversion has begun at the Moravian Music Foundation, but we are not talking about a religious conversion — rather a conversion from catalog records on paper converted to online records in a new web catalog. Barbara Strauss and David Blum, catalogers for this project, started working on two tracks — working on the Research Library and working on the manuscript collections from the vaults.

As David worked his way through the Research Library collection, he integrated books from the Moravian Music Foundation with the books from the Southern Province Archive into one collection ordered by Library of Congress call numbers.  Each volume, however, retains a mark for the Archives or the Foundation.  David has found some real gems, which Nola Knouse will explore at one of the lunch lectures in the future.

Barbara worked with staff from Backstage Library Works in Provo, Utah as they converted the catalog records for the manuscripts and early music imprints.  This is a high-tech, high-touch job.  Barbara created specifications for each collection to create a consistent record with all the Moravian and musical points of identity. Catalog cards or book catalogs were scanned; catalogers at Backstage Library Works created records according to specifications; records were checked for quality assurance; finally the records were added to the largest library database in the world — WorldCat.org.  From WorldCat.org, the Foundation will create the new web catalog.

What will all this conversion work do?  There is not one answer to that question.  As this project progresses, we will discover many benefits to this conversion work.  Let me start with one. On the Foundation’s webpage Research at the Moravian Music Foundation, Nola discusses a broad array of research topics and approaches. All of this is based on the assets found in the Winston Salem and Bethlehem vaults.  This conversion work will facilitate research on these topics and topics we haven’t dreamed of yet.