Project Name, Organization Name and URL
Digital Archive of American Popular Music, University of California at Los Angeles Music Library, http://digital.library.ucla.edu/apam
This digital library consists primarily of sheet music, or, in the words of the site, "American popular songs in the form in which they were originally published." Audio recordings make up a smaller portion of the collection. The archive describes itself this way on a page called "About the Digital Archive":
"The UCLA Music Library's Archive of American Popular Music is a research collection covering the history of popular music in the United States from 1790 through the present. The collection, fully accessible at the item level . . . is one of the largest in the country, numbering almost 450,000 pieces of sheet music, anthologies, and arrangements for band and orchestra. The collection also includes 62,500 recordings on disc, cylinder, and tape."Particular strengths within UCLA Music Library's twentieth century holdings include music for the theater, motion pictures, radio and television, as well as general popular music, country, rhythm and blues, and rock songs."The Digital Archive of American Popular Music is an initiative to provide access to digital versions of the sheet music, and performances of the songs now in the public domain."
The collection sounds quite comprehensive, and perhaps it is, but a quick search through the catalog reveals a much more limited scope. For example, I was unable to find any "rock songs" in any form. It is unclear if this will change as the collection is updated and more items are digitized or if the above description is simply inaccurate.
Students and other researchers are the primary audience for this collection. In fact, when one chooses to browse the entire digital collection, it becomes obvious that some sub-collections require a password for access. These are probably reserved for students or specific classes or researchers.
In addition, the site is designed as though it is to be used by those who are familiar with its contents and/or are looking for a specific item. Searching and browsing functions are abundant, but comparatively little information is provided about the collection, its contents and how to make the most of one's experience with it. The text quoted above is all that exists to explain this archive to users. This suggests that it is used primarily by students and professors conducting research with a specific focus. The design does not appear to welcome the general public or make an effort to appeal to this wider audience and their various needs. This is consistent with its description of itself as a research collection.
No information is provided about the background of the collection with the exception of what is revealed in the portion of text quoted above. All that is clear is that the Digital Archive of American Popular Music is part of UCLA's Archive of American Popular American Music. According to the Archive of Popular Music's home page, the digital archive is currently being developed, expanded, and improved.
What Was Digitized
In addition to the information already provided on the number of materials digitized, the Archive of American Popular Music's home page states that the sheet music is available in PDF form so that it can be quickly downloaded and printed. This sounds like a decision that was made with the needs of students in mind.
What is strange is that the audio files that are said to exist are effectively inaccessible. One cannot search by format. An attempt to browse the entire digital collection reveals a lengthy list of esoterically named sub-collections. It appears that most of these sub-collections contain only sheet music, so one would have to devote some time to digging through them before finding one of the sound files that are supposedly included. Therefore one is left to wonder if the digitized sound files are indeed available to users at this point, as well as what format they are in. Or perhaps there is a system of accessibility with which only students and other researchers are familiar.
This project's description is promising yet somewhat inconsistent with what it currently offers. This is probably because it is in the process of being improved. Little information is provided about the digitization process or the future of the collection, so one can only wonder if it will remain as it is or if new materials will be added in digital form, hopefully expanding the scope. If improvements and progress in this digitization project result in a collection that is more consistent with the description that is currently available, it will be a vast and valuable resource.