The collaborative research project ‘A Big Data History of Music’ draws on a disparate array of music catalogues created over nearly two centuries. During that time, many different cataloguing rules have existed; national and international standards have developed for cataloguing printed materials, and, in many countries, separate protocols established for the documentation of manuscripts and archival collections. In recent years, developments from outside the library world – for instance in linked data – have also had a bearing on the way printed and manuscript music is documented.
In order for meaningful results to be drawn from the combined dataset by the researchers working on ‘A Big Data History of Music’, a degree of harmonisation between the different data sources has been required. In this paper some of the difficulties of working with such disparate data sources are explored. Data from the British Library’s catalogue of printed music is being enhanced and an online version of an older printed catalogue of music manuscripts created using Optical Character Recognition. In some instances, it has been possible to find automated solutions to the problems; in others, music specialists have been called upon to enhance the data and create new access points.
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