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Primary Sources for Music - Digital Collections: Interdisciplinary Resources

Links to selected primary source materials for music, including manuscripts, scores, sound recordings, sheet music, and more.

Using Interdisciplinary Primary Sources for Research:

In the case of dance, opera, and other staged works, music is only one of many elements that contribute to the final product. Primary source materials such as notes on choreography, costume and set design sketches, photographs, video footage of rehearsals, and stage directions are elements that should be considered when doing research on such works. Music also plays a role in a larger cultural context, and interdisciplinary research is of increasing importance.

Featured Resource:

Blue Mountain Project: Historic Avant-Garde Periodicals for Digital Research - A digital project initiated by Princeton University with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Blue Mountain Project concentrates on "the scarce and ephemeral texts of the period between 1848 and 1923: journals, magazines, manifestos, and other publications which, taken together, underlay the emergence of modernity in Europe and the Americas." The project creates machine-readable transcriptions of the texts, and all metadata associated with the project is freely available in its GitHub Repository. At this time, Blue Mountain has 35 titles available, including Action, Dada, Der Sturm, East & West, La Revue musicale,  and Secession.


National Gallery of Art Images- "NGA Images is a repository of digital images of the collections of the National Gallery of Art. On this website you can search, browse, share, and download images. A standards-based reproduction guide and a help section provide advice for both novices and experts. More than 45,000 open access digital images up to 4000 pixels each are available free of charge for download and use. NGA Images is designed to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration."

The Getty Research Institute: Digital Collections - Access to selected treasures from the Getty Museum's Special Collections, including rare books, single prints, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, and archives. The Getty's Special Collections focuses on alchemy, architecture and design, artist's books and small press publications, artist's letters, Dada and surrealism, emblems, festivals, Italian futurism, Japanese avant-garde, optical devices, orientatlist photography, prints, Russian modernism, sketchbooks, and video and performance.


Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev - A wide variety of materials related to impressario Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes drawn from various collections in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. Photographs, scrapbooks, writings, costume and set designs, choreographic notes, scores, diaries, and programs are included.

Bronislava Nijinska Collection - "The collection of notable dancer, choreographer and teacher Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972) contains a diverse variety of materials documenting dance and the arts in the twentieth century. Available here are over 200 collection items, including manuscripts, books, diaries, choreographic notebooks, correspondence, moving image materials, music scores, photographs, posters, programs, set and costume designs, and scrapbooks."

Selections from the Martha Graham Collection (Library of Congress) - Focusing on Graham's work between 1918 and 1949, this collection offers concert programs, press announcements, reviews, libretti, scripts, and photographs.


American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920 - An American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, American Variety Stage is a multimedia resource that features motion pictures, theater playbills and programs, Yiddish and English playscripts, memorabilia of Harry Houdini, and sound recordings (Edison Diamond Discs dating from 1913-27).

Selected Images:

Action: Cahiers de philosophie et d'art






Action: Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d'art, The Blue Mountain Projected, accessed March 19, 2015.

Léon Bakst, color costume design for a Courtier in The Sleeping Princess (1921), Library of Congress, Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev, accessed March 18, 2015.

Jean-François Janinet after Nicolas Lavreince, "A Woman Playing the Guitar," etched color print (1788-89), Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art Images, accessed March 19, 2015.