Description of the Project and Its Significance


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The extent of materials which will be considered for selection under this project is concisely defined as including:

the geographical area encompassed by the current South Asian nation-states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Tibetan region of China;

the chronological period from the earliest acoustic recordings made in the subcontinent in 1898 through 1947, the date of independence in South Asia;

the entire range of carrier media for recorded sound created during the chronological period but with special attention to wax cylinders and shellac records;

all genres of musical content, broadly construed; and

recordings of music held in Berlin, in Chicago, and by private collectors and sister institutions in South Asia.

Within this broad definition of scope, the project will be constrained only by rigorous adherence to intellectual property laws. Preference will be given in selection to the oldest recordings.


This project will yield results throughout the three-year duration of funding and beyond. The description here is principally of plans for sustaining the project, maintaining and updating the resources, and broadening efforts to recover South Asia recorded heritage. The most important bases of support are the two institutions making this application. The BPA enjoys strong support from the German government and the University of Chicago has liberally supported its programs in ethnomusicology, South Asian studies, and the Library. That support will enable the continuing production of CDs in the Historical Sound Documents series12 from BPA. The publication of at least one volume in the Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology series13 will be possible, as noted in more detail elsewhere in this proposal, through a subvention from several units on the University campus. The Library in Chicago has demonstrated its commitment to the Digital South Asia Library through generous support for data archiving and staff support to maintain the Web servers over the past decade. That support will continue into the distant future, in part, because DSAL has become an important international resource. The addition of several thousand digital audio recordings to the site will further increase the importance of DSAL and increase traffic to the site well beyond the already significant current monthly levels exceeding two million visits. The South Asia Union Catalogue program will use cash credits generated from loading unique records to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) database to support the creation of additional records in South Asia, Berlin, and Chicago after the project is concluded and to complete that cataloguing to the high standards and full levels which have characterized the South Asia Union Catalogue program. Finally, the University of Chicago has just been awarded a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A segment of that new project will permit Chicago to digitize more than 9,800 gramophone records containing speeches, drama, and other recording of value for advanced language pedagogy.

After the end of the funded phase, Chicago and BPA will continue to work together to further develop the music collections of South Asian as part of the DSAL on the basis of the infrastructure established in the project. Several infrastructural building blocks will be created by the proposed project such as an exchange routine for metadata and digital objects, additionally IPR issues specific to the exchange of material between the Germany and the US will be addressed. Thus, it will be possible to continue work with regular staff in Berlin and Chicago as digitization and acquisition of material continues.

Two intellectual projects will sustain the collaborative engagement between Berlin and Chicago. First, the Division of the Humanities established a new Center for Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago in 2009. With ongoing collaboration between Lars-Christian Koch and Philip V. Bohlman at the University of Chicago (a three-year Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Trans-Atlantic Cooperation Grant), the Chicago Center for Ethnomusicology has joined with the expansion of the Berlin Phonogram Archive in the Humboldt-Forum in Berlin. Second, the Project Co-Directors and Philip Bohlman will propose "Expressive Culture in South Asia" as the theme for the second bi-annual Hebrew University/University of Chicago Seminar on South Asia. If approved, the seminar would be held in 2012. The recordings and other documentation created under this project would serve as an excellent resource for seminar participants.

4. Methodology and Standards

Project work will be coordinated from locations in Berlin, Chicago, and Chennai (formerly Madras). All project participants are committed to follow the methods and standards described in this section. Throughout the three years of funding project staff will monitor the bodies which set relevant standards and implement changes to practices as necessary.

The methods to be used under this proposed project have been created and refined over more than a decade at the Berlin Archive and the University of Chicago. Successfully completed projects which laid the foundation for this collaborative engagement between Berlin and Chicago are described in the History of Awards section and elsewhere in this narrative. Many of Chicago's previous initiatives have been implemented in collaboration with colleagues in South Asia. South Asian librarians and archivists often exhibit a passion for documenting and caring for their cultural patrimony and are able to combine that passion with deep knowledge of local languages. This combination of interest and expertise has added to project success.

This project will follow the DFG Practical Guidelines on Cultural Heritage and recommendations of the Digital Library Federation as a general framework for digitization and preservation as well as the more specialized guidelines established by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) for audio documents which are not covered by the DFG guidelines.14

Preparation and Processing of Material

The Project Directors have established guidelines for the selection of recordings to ensure that the digitized resources are diverse enough in genre and geographical origin to meet the needs of South Asia scholars from numerous disciplines. Project staff will implement the guidelines in selection of individual recordings for digitization. The Advisory Board will review those item-level decisions periodically throughout the project and comment on necessary adjustments. The Board will also oversee the selections in terms of IPR and ethical treatment of composers and performing artists. Selection decisions will encompass audio recordings as well as documents and photographs accompanying field recordings. Please see the selection guidelines in Appendix 2.

Preparation for digitization will differ based on the media and the location of work. In Berlin, wax cylinders will receive visual examination and, when there is more than one copy available, the copies will be physically collocated. Audio tape will be examined to determine if there has been any physical degradation.15 The project ethnomusicologist in Berlin will organize field notes, photographs, and other documents which have recently been acquired and not yet fully integrated into the BPA archive. In Chennai, cleaning shellac discs will be the principal preparatory activity. Project staff will use the record cleaning equipment recommended by the National Sound Archive at the British Library. (Please see Appendix 2 for details on the equipment.)

Audio transfer from analog to digital will be executed in Berlin and in Chennai. Signal retrieval from original carriers will be carried out using high quality playback machines that match the speed and format of the original recording and that are properly cleaned and aligned. The BPA already owns appropriate equipment which was acquired through other projects such as ILKAR. Equipment for Chennai will be purchased following specifications prepared for the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme by the National Sound Archive in London. Additionally, the team in Chennai will use an optical scanner developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The transfer from analog to digital will take place using professional hardware as specified in IASA TC-04. To ensure a high quality standard, Albrecht Wiedmann, the chief sound technician at the Berlin Archive will train staff in Chennai and periodically assess the quality of work in India.

Digital audio files will be stored unprocessed and without data reduction using the broadcasting wave (EBU tech 3285), preferably, or alternatively the wave format with a preferred resolution of 192 kHz/24 bit and minimal resolution of 96 kHz/24 bit. Material that has been digitized in the past will be re-evaluated. If a considerable increase in quality is expected it will be digitized again, otherwise older digital masters will be preserved in the current resolution. Most notably, some shellac recordings were digitized in Berlin in the late 1990s with resolution of 48 kHz/16 bit. MD5 will be employed to check the integrity of files. The digital audio files will be converted to a compressed format, most likely MP3, for convenient access via the project's Web site. WAV files will also be made available for scholars who need high quality audio for their research.

Project staff in Berlin and Chennai will digitize documentary information related to audio recordings. They will use flat-bed scanners and high resolution digital cameras already held by the BPA and the Roja Muthiah Research Library. Quality control will be applied to ensure that the following high standards are met. Images will be scanned at a resolution of 300-600 dpi, depending upon the source, and stored in 24 bit TIFF or lossless JPEG2000 file formats. Scanned texts will be stored as image and as full-text in Unicode if recognized by OCR software.16 In important cases, translations or transliterations from handwritten texts will be provided in accordance with recommendations of the Advisory Board.

The project's high quality metadata will permit users to locate the project's digital resources efficiently and precisely. The project ethnomusicologist in Berlin will augment existing digital metadata describing the BPA's South Asia holdings which have been selected for digitization. The existing metadata is often only available for the collection level and not for sub-units or individual documents. This documentation of holdings will continue the metadata creation begun under DISMARC and ethnoArc, two previous digital library projects co-funded by the European Union. BPA metadata for commercial recordings will be converted to MARC21 format and metadata for field recordings will be converted to Encoded Archival Description format for exchange with Chicago and presentation on the project Web site. The descriptive records will include technical information about the digital files including a description of the original carrier, its format and state of preservation, and the equipment required to replay the original media.

Professional cataloguers in Chennai will create full bibliographic and related authority records for each of the 78 rpm gramophone records digitized under NEH funding. All records will be reviewed by staff to ensure that high standards are met. Specifically, the standards are those of Anglo-American cataloguing rules, second revised edition, and the Library of Congress Rule interpretations. (Program staff are well qualified to meet these standards and will receive additional training from the Library of Congress and the University of Chicago Library.) All records will be created using digital images of record labels as the chief source of information with supplementary information coming from catalogues produced by the record companies and, occasionally, from consultation of archives held by record manufacturers. Cataloguers with special training in authority control will collect information on personal names and titles to create authority records if records do not already exist. These new name and uniform title authority records will contain the established entry along with dates of birth and death or period when the person flourished, if known; cross-references; notes on sources consulted in establishing the standard form and its cross-references; and other necessary information. The cataloguers will draw upon information in provisional authority records available at the BPA and collaborate with colleagues at the BPA in completing the German data. As with bibliographic records, the authority records created for the South Asia Union Catalogue will contain parallel fields (880) for alternate graphic representation of non-roman scripts. South Asia scholars have often called for the addition of cataloguing data in the scripts used in the publications and recordings, arguing that it is easier to read catalogue data in the original characters than in romanization. (Appendix 2 contains sample records including 880 fields in Perso-Arabic characters.)

Project staff will disseminate metadata from the BPA and Chennai via the South Asia Union Catalogue. Further, during the second year of the project staff will begin loading the full electronic catalogue records to OCLC. Those bibliographic data will also be made available to European and South Asian national databases and individual libraries. Archival metadata from BPA will also be disseminated to Europeana at regular intervals using an established export routine based on Open Archive Initiative (OAI) technologies.

Organization of and Access to Material

The Digital South Asia Library (DSAL)17 will host the project Web site, maintain the digital audio files and related documentation from field recordings with persistent URIs, and deliver the resources to users. The South Asia Union Catalogue (SAUC)18 will deliver the project's metadata to users. (Please see specimen entries in Appendix 2.) Both DSAL and SAUC are maintained by the University of Chicago. Technical information about DSAL and detailed statements on the standards to which DSAL adheres are enumerated at These include standards for archiving and preservation, Dublin Core, PURL, Unicode, XHTML, and compliance with the Web Accessibility Initiative standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium. SAUC utilizes software fully compliant with the Z39.50 protocol. The SAUC system permits users to search and retrieve bibliographic information in Unicode encoding from its Internet server. Additionally, Berlin materials will be referenced from Europeana and other cultural heritage portals such as BAM (

This project will adhere to intellectual property rights and copyright laws and act ethically with respect to the composers, artists, and their heirs of the works we handle. This commitment has roots in solid traditions of ethical behavior by the BPA and Chicago in building and maintaining collections in collaboration with colleagues in South Asia. The implications of this commitment in Berlin will be shaped by the fact that the BPA’s collection consists primarily of unpublished collections of sound recording and supporting documentation. In contrast, the collection to be treated by the University of Chicago and colleagues in South Asia consists of commercially released gramophone records.19 But, common to our work under DFG and NEH funding will be the principle enunciated by Prof. Anthony Seeger. “Our ethical treatment of the artists and the communities from which they have come must be of primary importance in our positions on intellectual property, decisions about preservation, and strategies for institutions survival.”20 We will be alert to the responsibilities attendant upon our “position of arbiter between the traditional ideas of ownership, restrictions of the donor, and current copyright law.”21 In recognition of the fact that mere possession of recordings is not grounds for unrestricted use, we will “[collaborate] with the communities from which their collections originate as well as those they serve” and will “operate in a legal manner.”22 We also recognize that copyright may subsist separately in compositions and the recording of those compositions. This potential for dual copyright can complicate attempts to understand the current status of a work or recording and the meaning of fair use with respect to those recordings. The project has engaged Prof. Seeger, a highly regarded leader in ethnomusicology archives and a recognized authority on rights management, to assess the project’s performance relative to copyright and ethical standards. As an example of repatriation, we will take every step possible to inform descendants of arrangements we have made for digital preservation of recordings and will offer copies of those recordings on appropriate media to those who have inadequate access to the Internet. In these repatriation efforts we will collaborate with the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology in India.
Storage, Maintenance, and Protection of Data

Storage of digital objects and the corresponding metadata will be on professional mass storage systems in Chicago, Berlin and to a limited extent also in Chennai where files will be stored only temporarily. Digital objects will be stored in high quality and open formats (WAV, TIFF, XML, and so forth) as described above. Likewise, the metadata produced by the project will be stored in formats following such standards as MARC21 and EAD to guarantee their long-term usability. Further, the data from Chicago and the Berlin Archive will be shared with each other and stored on each other’s systems which will provide additional protection through redundancy.

The DSAL plan for maintenance of data includes the following procedures to ensure the integrity of the storage media: periodic checks of completeness and functionality of the media; periodic refreshing and/or copying the resources in order to guard against the degradation of media; migration to new media or new formats; saving files in their primary format; and preserving the technology used in the creation/storage of the files.

The University of Chicago Library Digital Repository will be responsible for data archiving to ensure the long-term preservation of the digital objects and metadata created under this DFG/NEH project. Standards deployed for archiving the digital resources created by this project follow what are becoming standard practices for libraries and archives. Additionally, the professional staff working for the Digital Repository constantly monitor developments in best practices and make appropriate adjustments to local practices. It is noteworthy that the University of Chicago Library is an active member of the Digital Library Federation, a body which is in the forefront of research and establishment of standards for maintenance of data and data archiving. The Ethnological Museum in Berlin will also archive the full set of the project’s digital resources on its data storage system. Please see Appendix 2 for more information from the University of Chicago Library's Digital Repository mission statement.

5. Work Plan

5a. Tasks and Agents

The University of Chicago, a principal participant in the Digital South Asia Library, will be the administrative home for the project's work on early commercial gramophone records. Staff in Chicago will purchase hardware and software and deliver the equipment to Chennai; design the project Web resources in collaboration with colleagues in Berlin and create the site on DSAL; collect digital assets from Chennai and Berlin each quarter and integrate those digital audio files and related graphic materials on the DSAL server; collect bibliographic records and archival metadata from Chennai and Berlin and add those records to the South Asia Union Catalog (SAUC); and ensure that mechanisms for data storage and archiving are functioning properly.

The Phonogram Archive in Berlin will be responsible for project activities related to field recordings. Staff will create metadata mapping for export of legacy data to MARC21 and EAD formats; assess the condition of wax cylinder recordings, galvanos, shellac discs, and audio tapes prior to transferring the audio from analog to digital; digitize associated field notes, photographs, and other related resources; perfect the documentation of the BPA's South Asian holdings; and both deliver new digital resources to Chicago and collect from Chicago the digital objects created in Chennai. The chief sound technician at the BPA will train staff in Chennai. Using its own resources, BPA will create CDs for its series of historical recordings from selected recordings digitized under this project.

The Roja Muthiah Research Library (RMRL) in Chennai will be the main operational base for cataloguing the audio recordings, preparing electronic records for an historical discography, and transferring the analog recordings on selected discs to digital format. RMRL's collection of gramophone records will receive an assessment for conservation needs. Subsequently, the recordings will be converted to digital audio files in the WAV format and copies for general use generated in MP3 format. Graphic material on the record sleeves will be captured as digital images. Any pamphlets included in boxed editions will be scanned. The digital recordings and bibliographic data will be delivered to Chicago each quarter. Throughout its work RMRL staff will review all products for quality.

5b. Schedule

The following Gantt chart offers a synoptic view of project activities. Please consult the detailed work plan and schedule of project activities in Appendix 1 for a more comprehensive statement on tasks, agents, and their deployment.

5c. Evaluation

A key aspect of our program review is that evaluation is integral to the design of the project itself. Evaluation will not simply be external and focused on project results. Rather, it will be internal as well, expected to generate programmatic changes if necessary, and to note shortcomings. Every half year the project co-directors will meet with staff to assess performance measures such as the use of grant funds, work performed, the results of project activities, outcomes of the activities, and the impact of the project on those who use the resources created. These reviews will result in adjustments, as necessary, to the project's procedures and practices. They will also be linked to semi-annual performance reports.

In addition we will engage three external reviewers to evaluate the project's efficacy. We will invite Anthony Seeger, Professor, Ethnomusicology and Director, Ethnomusicology Archive, University of California, Los Angeles, to assess the project at the end of the second year and Wolfgang Bender, Director, Director, Center for World Music, University of Hildesheim (previously Director, African Music Archive, University of Mainz) and Rudolf Brandl, Director, Phonogrammarchiv Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences, at the conclusion of the three-year project. Each will be charged with assessment of qualitative and quantitative data assembled during the semi-annual internal evaluations. They will address the project's success in producing promised products; our adherence to best practices regarding copyright and ethical treatment of composers, performing artists, and their heirs; the impact of the project; and make recommendations for future collaborative activities by BPA and Chicago.

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