Reviews: Digital and Multimedia Scholarship.

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Date: Fall 2021
Publisher: University of California Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 4,238 words
Lexile Measure: 1690L

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Metropolitan Opera Archives. URL:

Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century. Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Libraries. URL:

Re-envisioning Japan: Japan as Destination in 20th-century Visual and Material Culture. Joanne Bernardi, Project Director. University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries. URL:

The ever-growing body of topical research websites ranges from seemingly passive repositories of singular items with varying degrees of description to carefully curated sites that are in themselves acts of digital scholarship. The three sites considered in this review contain digitized artifacts that date primarily from the late nineteenth century through the present, though their contents are more significant for historical understandings of American musical life during the first half of the twentieth century. At the same time, all three collections transcend perceived boundaries, either through their transnational nature or the wide variety of their materials, or because the historical activities associated with their content have fallen between disciplinary fields. While the Metropolitan Opera Archives website highlights the history of a well-known cultural institution and is thus the most predictable in the kinds of comprehensive information it provides, Traveling Culture and Re-envisioning Japan, whose usefulness for music scholars is perhaps not as immediately obvious, require additional critical apparatus to provide con-textualization for their contents. All three websites can play a role in scholarship and pedagogy, though they vary in terms of their effectiveness in providing access points and necessary wider understandings for their users, as well as in the degree to which they take full advantage of their digital formats. Together, the sites constitute a spectrum of disciplinary resources for music studies, and their contents and platforms prompt important discussions about digital archival experiences.

Metropolitan Opera Archives

Former Metropolitan Opera archivist Mary Ellis Peltz once described the company's extensive collections as "[r]otting in a sooty basement, rust-stained in ancient tin boxes, eaten by rodents or pulverized by old steam leaks, stuffed higgledy-piggledy into ripping cartons." (1) Programs, receipts, props, scenery, performer correspondence, and personal memorabilia abounded in the lower levels of the old Metropolitan Opera House, accessible only to staff and researchers. In undertaking the process of cataloging the long-neglected material, Peltz had two aims: preservation and public service. The reorganized collection was to be used by researchers and interested fans alike. Peltz's collation and consolidation efforts ultimately informed the assembly of Gerald Fitzgerald's oft-cited Annals of the Metropolitan Opera (AMO). (2) While the Met's physical collections remain important for ongoing archival research, recent decades have seen the launch of three distinct online, open-access platforms: the MetOpera Database, the Bispham Collection of Opera Memorabilia, and a series of "Notes from the Archives." These free resources, accessed from a central web page, offer engaging, detailed data for scholars and ready-made archival experiences for students.

As the digital archive's oldest and most often cited reference tool, the MetOpera Database builds upon the exhaustive coverage of its print predecessor, the AMO. (3) Launched in 2005, the site comprises data from nearly thirty thousand documented performances, spanning from the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A696486493