Handing Off the Baton

This past week I finished my internship with the Library of Congress. I have mentioned before how large the scope of the Disney Film Music Project is, so now comes the time where my supervisor takes over, using the frameworks and processes I helped to create to move the project forward.

My supervisor will continue to use my inventory spreadsheet as Disney music is still being pulled from offsite. This will allow for him to cross-reference his own research and lists with mine in order to know more needs to be done and to prevent redoing any work that is already accomplished. My inventory spreadsheet will also be used by the music catalogers as a way to connect the songs and music to one another, and to identify items that otherwise have very little existing context.

The scores I boxed and rehoused will live on as an example for the rest of the Disney film music collection. Because the rehousing portion of this project is unique to this specific collection (organized by size rather than subject matter), it is important that the scores I worked with will exist as a model for all the music that will come in after I am gone.

And then, of course, the bibliography I created will continue to grow and expand to include the entirety of the Library of Congress’ unpublished Disney music collection. I am very excited for when that gets published and released so I can have it on my bookshelf!

I am thankful for my time at the Library, and am proud of the work I accomplished.

Boxing Up

When considering the other aspects of my internship that I have not fully described, I realized that I have not given much time to the rehousing process! While processes that use terms such as “boxing” or “rehousing” seem boring, it’s important not to take them for granted because they are actually a crucial step in the processing of special collections.

The role of libraries is not just to store information for the use of others, but it is also to preserve the current condition of items while repairing any existing damage. As I handle each Disney score that comes from offsite, I am reminded that I may be one of the few people to hold it in my hands for another decade or so, until word of the Library of Congress’ Disney music collection spreads and until someone requests to see it. With this in mind, I keep an eye out for any tears, folds, smudges, etc that may need to be addressed before an item gets rehoused.

Items with tears are relatively easy to preserve. They go into a special synthetic slip that holds the tear together while still allowing for the item to be viewed. Items that have been folded for years and can’t be re-opened without breaking the paper get professional help. Other employees of the library have strategies for softening the paper and flattening it. Items with smudges are tricky – one must decided whether to lightly pencil in the missing information or to simply make a note of it.

Once an item has had some mild preservation work and is cataloged, then it gets rehoused and boxed. Of the 75 or so scores I boxed, the majority were film scores, and therefore were large and thick. Each score needed to have it’s metal binding removed and placed into an archival folder to hold it together. Then, each folder was laid on top of each other in a short, medium-sized box. In total, about five scores could fit in each box.

This strategy of rehousing allows for the items to exist with minimal strains and potential dangers, while still allowing for ease of discovery and access. Learning how the librarians came up with this unique rehousing process for the Disney music collection gave me insight into the different considerations necessary for collections with unique needs, such as fragility, and the relative urgency of availability to the public.

Display Day

A couple of weeks ago was Display Day – the climax event for all of the Junior Fellows. For five hours, the fellows set up in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, each with a table of items pertaining to their individual projects, and shared their stories with the public, Library employees, and each other.

At my table, I showed some examples of unused and earlier versions of unpublished Disney scores from Cinderella. With them I told the story of how copyright deposits capture the creative process and explained the potential research value that these film scores can have. I also had a laptop where visitors could listen to the demo recordings of these unused songs. It was so fun to interact with various Disney fans of all backgrounds and ages as they realized and learned more about the process of creating an animated film! It was also very rewarding to share what this internship has meant to me as visitors asked about my summer and career goals.

And then, of course, it was wonderful getting to see what all of the other fellows have been working on during their 10 weeks at the Library. I saw material-science lab supplies, miniature books, home films, recordings of oral history, decorative material in non-Western languages, and much, much, more. It felt an honor to be a part of such an impressive group of young people. While I’m glad the stress of Display Day preparation is long gone, I grieve the coming end of what has been an incredible summer with an incredible Library.

Showing off the Music Division

Towards the end of my internship I was able to help co-present the Music Division of the Library of Congress with one of the librarians to about 50 interns.This relatively informal presentation covered the Music Division’s history, collections, and digital projects.

One of the best stories about the start of the Music Division is a quote from the first Music Division Chief, Oscar Sonneck, in which he describes how the collection’s growth through copyright deposit brings in “the trash as well as the treasure.” A hundred years ago, the treasures included the great symphonic and operatic works of the period, and the trash Sonneck referred to was the popular sheet music. In current times, however, it is the popular sheet music from the early 20th century that is one of the Music Division’s most valuable collection. Some of those scores have been digitized so that anyone can browse the songs about World War I, baseball, and the suffragist movement to get a unique perspective on life and culture from those eras.

My role in this presentation was to explain the copyright deposit process, which I have done in earlier blog posts on this blog. It is thanks to the materials which have been submitted to the National Copyright Office throughout the years that the Library of Congress has the amazing collections that it does (including the unpublished Disney music!).

This was a great opportunity to both practice my presenting skills and work alongside a music librarian, which will in turn strengthen my development in collaborations and instructional work.

Beginning a Bibliography

I mentioned before that the final product of this entire Disney Film Music Project is a bibliography listing all of the unpublished Disney works held by the Library of Congress. The last half of this internship my supervisor and I have begun this undertaking, teaching me a lot about the forgotten science of bibliography.

So what is a bibliography, and why does it matter? Essentially, a bibliography is a list of books. As a practiced science, before the age of the internet, bibliographers would compile lists of books organized in specific ways to help with research. For example, there are bibliographies of every work created by a specific author or composer. There are also bibliographies that compile writings from all sorts of people on just a single subject. These days one can find some similar lists on websites, but most finely-crafted lists are found as published books.

The hope of creating a bibliography of the Library of Congress’ unpublished Disney scores is to give an organized list of everything in the collection in order to facilitate the research and finding of this music. Each entry will include the song title, composer and lyricist, if the song is unused, it’s call number, and it’s copyright registration date and number. With this information, a researcher can track a specific composer’s work with Disney, research the way songs for a film changed during it’s production, and study the creative process captured within the deposits.

Helping create this bibliography has been really enlightening to all the work that goes into forming these lists, and I look forward to contributing as much to it as I can.

Librarianship from the Experts

Last week I had the honor of attending a panel session featuring the top commanders of the Library of Congress. These included Chief of Staff Ryan Ramsey, Principle Deputy Mark Sweeney, and, of course, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

It was incredibly valuable to receive career advice from a panel of such intelligent and passionate individuals, all of whom love the profession and desire to share their excitement for it’s progression into the digital age. It was also interesting to hear more about the goals and aspirations that the Library of Congress hopes to achieve in order to better serve not just Congress, but the nation.

I took two major pieces of advice away from this session. The first was to not be so rigid in your career goals that you do not take opportunities presented to you that may feel slightly outside your comfort zone or abilities. Everyone on the stage that afternoon agreed that there were many times they reached their goals after gaining more unique experiences, or times where they had changed their minds about their career after trying something new. It felt encouraging to know that if something doesn’t work out the way I hope it does, perhaps unexpected opportunities can take me places even more fulfilling and interesting than I had hoped for.

My second takeaway was the comfort I received upon hearing that the Library of Congress could benefit from having more generalist-librarians in their staff — individuals who can look across divisions and specializations, appreciate them for what they are, and then connect them to common goals in tangible ways. It can be difficult to imagine librarianship as a profession of specialists, but I often feel a little out of place as someone who doesn’t want another masters degree in order to specialize in a specific topic. Even in music librarianship, which is a relatively narrow field, I’m surround by those who specialize in film music, or the classical time period, or Russian composers, or female composers, or even baseball music! To know that I can prefer to know a little about a lot of things and still be desirable as a potential librarian was a great boost of confidence.

I am incredibly grateful to have received advice from the top figures in my field. And now I shall leave you with the best words of the entire afternoon from Dr. Hayden, in response to the relevancy of librarians:

“Well you know that Beyonce has a full-time archivist, right?”

Keeping Record: a tour of NAVCC

The beautiful Packard campus in Culpeper, VA.

Last Friday I had the privilege to tour the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. This ex-cold-war-era-nuclear-shelter-turned-film-vault is part of the Library of Congress, and they do some really incredible work! Together, the other Junior Fellows and I were able to learn about recorded video and sound and all of the work it takes to preserve our films and tapes for future generations.

First we took a look at recorded sound. The NAVCC has a massive collection of audio material, including (but not limited to) wax cylinders, wire recordings, every size record imaginable, tapes, and endless digital files. Depending on the condition of an item, the Library may decide to digitize it, to painstakingly restore it, or meet somewhere in the middle. The types of recordings they handle also covers a wide range, from radio broadcasts, to released music, to oral histories and interviews. And that’s not all! The NAVCC also has a great show-room of collected historical microphones, speakers, phonographs, record players, you name it. There was nothing that we saw that was unimpressive – all of it blew me away!

Next we saw a tour of their recorded video services. Just as the recorded sound division covered a wide range of formats, so does the video! NAVCC protects, revitalizes, preserves, and digitizes every type of film and digital content imaginable. We got to meet the digitizing robotic storage machines which live right next door to film duplication machines which lives next to the film scanner – all ways of elongating the lifetime of a video. Also like the audio division, the visual departments covers a wide range of content, from news broadcasts, to television, to home video, to movies. In fact, due to the delicate nature of the earliest films, NAVCC is home to many, many film and studio master’s tapes/reels, which we got to go and see!

If you were wondering why the A/V branch of the Library of Congress is in the middle of nowhere, it is because of what was already there. During the Cold War, the US Federal Reserve built a state-of-the-art nuclear bomb shelter where they stored enough currency to restart the economy should a nuclear disaster occur. After a couple of decades, the building went out of use and in the late 90’s-early 00’s the Library bought the bunker and, through a large private donation, built the surrounding campus. Now the bunker is home to the many vaults which stores the most fragile films. It was these vaults that we got to tour – it was mind-blowing!

I am excited to continue to follow the great work that happens out in Culpeper, and am so thankful to have been able to see the campus. I feel inspired now to be on the lookout for historic recordings – so remember to take a look in your attic, and check the rarity of your tapes and films before throwing them out!

Reduce & Reuse

Have you ever wondered what a big library like the Library of Congress might do with all the books they don’t need anymore? Well a couple of weeks ago I was able to find out with a tour through the Surplus Books Program!

Touring different divisions at the Library is one of my favorite highlights of being a Junior Fellow. With an institution so large, each task needs it’s own department in order to handle the volume of materials, which is unlike the processes I am used to from the smaller libraries. This was certainly true of Surplus Program – we toured there for almost two hours, there were so many books, as well as so much to discuss!

When a book first reaches the Surplus Program, it usually gets sorted into one of two groups: domestic use or international use. Books that are sorted for international use are usually works of a research-nature that are published by a university press, and books sorted for domestic use can range from children’s books to cookbooks to fiction, and everything in-between.

Now, it is more complicated than this, but nations can choose to participate in a book-swapping program with the Library of Congress. So when a book gets sorted for international use, it gets entered into a database where other nations can then browse and select the books they want. They just pay for shipping, and agree to send the Library books of theirs in return!

The domestic program is also really neat. All of the books selected for domestic use are loosely sorted by genre onto browse-able shelves. Any government agency, educational institution, or non-profit organization can send a representative to walk through the stacks and select whichever books they like. Unlike the international program, these books do not live in a database, and these agencies are not expected to give a book in return. They do however still have to pay for shipping if they want to send boxes of books back to their home state.

Learning that the Library of Congress uses their extra books to strategically build up the collections of other libraries was very intriguing and inspiring to learn from. I am excited to continue learning about other interesting programs during my time here!

You can read more about the Surplus Books Program here.

Writing a blog

One of the neat things I am able to do during my time with the Music Division of the Library of Congress is be a guest author on their blog, In the Muse. Due to the close work I am getting with a special collection, they wanted to give me an opportunity to share some of the cool stories that I was discovering (no pressure, right?).

Truthfully, I have been learning a lot of fascinating things about Disney by spending time with the film music deposits. For example, I learned that a main lyricist in the production studio that wrote for Disney television and live-action films, Gil George, was actually a woman! Her name was Hazel George, and she wasn’t even on the music team. She was the studio nurse and a close friend of Walt’s, and wrote lyrics under the pseudonym for many years.

I’ve also learned that Disney Studios did a lot of other work beyond making films, silly cartoons, and television shows. Disney also created military training videos for soldiers during World War II, created cartoons to promote good habits and morals for children, and participated significantly in the 1964 World’s Fair in their exhibition of audio-animatronics.

So what did I end up writing about for my guest blog post? Head on over to In the Muse to check it out!

(Or just click here!)

Making a Disney wunder-list

A note from a box of Disney scores that were found offsite.

In my last post I introduced my process of locating the scattered Disney copyright deposits – one of research, comparing, digging, and list-making. At this point in my project, I have almost finished inventorying all of the scores that were already located in the Madison building, and now I have to coordinate with the offsite facility in order to locate and bring all of the other scores to my cubicle!

I’ve mentioned this earlier, but in theory, the Library of Congress should have the score for every bit of copyrighted music that Disney registered from the beginning of the company until the late 1970’s. For each year, the U.S. Copyright Office publishes a comprehensive list of all copyright registrations received and renewed in that year – both published and unpublished. For me, this means that in order to know how many scores we should have for any given film, I have to search within these massive registration volumes for all times that film is mentioned. This can range anywhere from five entries (The Reluctant Dragon or The Three Caballeros) to over twenty (Snow White and Pinocchio). Once I find evidence of every unpublished music registration for a film, I compare those registration numbers to the list of scores that are already at the Library and find out which ones we are missing. This process leads to yet another list! My “To Find” list of missing scores then gets sent to Tom – the official ‘finder-of-things’ at LOC’s offsite storage facility, who then delivers a box full of the missing scores to my desk.

Receiving those scores is always really exciting for me, because I never know what I’m going to find. This last delivery of missing scores had at least seven handwritten, manuscript vocal scores of unused and early-version songs from Pinocchio!

As detail-oriented as this whole process is – of figuring out which scores we currently have, which scores we should have, and which scores we need to search for – it is so rewarding! Not only do I get to handle scores that haven’t been seen for 60-80 years, but I get to know that I’m doing something that hasn’t been done before in compiling a wunder-list (if you will) of every piece of unpublished Disney TV and film music. Every day I am so thankful for this awesome opportunity!