Library of Congress: Early American Sheet Music

Research output: Contributions to journalsArticlepeer-review


Early American Sheet Music is a digital sheet-music collection curated and published by The Library of Congress. This beautiful resource provides open access to a specific classification number, M1.A1, by providing high-quality images and an easy-to-use visual browsing interface. It showcases early print sheet music and copied manuscripts from the United States and the colonies through 1820. However, the manner in which this digital collection has been curated highlights the changing roles and responsibilities of the library from custodian to custodian and publisher. While digital collections are enabling researchers across the world to see the resource, the curation tailors the online collection, thus invoking limitations on researchers. Further questions centre on issues of copyright. While the collection is free to use for personal research and education purposes, what persists is a constant confusion when it comes to downloading and performing early music found in digital collections. Performing such collections may be unique to music, but it is a serious issue that requires clarification. Using the new Early American Sheet Music resource as a centre for discussion, this article interrogates the current issues of digital music collections.


Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Musical Association Research Chronicle
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 31 Jul 2018