A Project to Support the Preservation, Cataloguing and Enhancement of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Archives

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: October 2011 - Project end date: December 2012
Project number: 2011-33
Beneficiary: Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia - Fondazione


The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, founded in 1585, is one of the most ancient musical institutions in the world. By statute it pursues, on a non-profit basis, the following objectives:
• Diffusion of music and music culture
• Enhancement of its historical heritage
• Musical education for the community
• Professional training of artists
• Enhancement of its permanent artistic staff

The twofold nature of the Accademia, as performance organisation and cultural institution, has brought, over time, to the stratification of a large historical-musical heritage of heterogeneous nature which was made available to the public in 2005 with the opening of the Multimedia Library (700 square metres, 650 linear metres of open shelves, 40 reading places, 27 multimedia stations for consulting catalogues, online repertoires and Teche RAI).
The Accademia's historical-musical heritage includes the following.

Historical archive: More than 1,200 linear metres of documents since 1651; partly digitized for a total of 150,000 files: registries, correspondence, playbills and posters, concert programmes, press reviews of the concerts

• 130,000 books and publications
• 8,000 manuscripts and tablatures, scores and librettos with editions prior to 1830, of which 2,000 have been digitized
• 14 new fonds acquired since 2005, with a total of about 21,000 new acquisitions of books, scores, records, reels and other recorded media

Ethnomusicoloy archives: About 1,500 hours of audio recordings, the most important Italian archive for national, European and extra-European oral tradition
Photo archive: more than 40,000 photos from mid-nineteenth century to present, of which 12,000 have been digitized.
Audiovisual archives: More than 2,500 files in the concerts archive which are now available in mp3 format through the Concert Chronology database
Musical Instruments Museum: 650 pieces, amongst which:
• 270 musical instruments
• About 200 accessories and parts
• About 30 objects and heirlooms
• More than 2,000 documents about the photographic and restoration campaigns
Visual art collection: 130 works including paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings with musical themes

Within the Accademia's historical-musical heritage special care is given to so-called 'non-material' assets, that is audiovisual archives. In particular the Ethnomusicology Archives - which hold the most important Italian and European (as well as extra-European) oral tradition collections; the archive was founded in 1948 in collaboration with RAI - and the Concerts Archive which holds all live recordings of the Orchestra sporadically from 1937 to the 1980s and then systematically.
The audiovisual archives hold important evidence, often unpublished, about performance practices of the Twentieth century and the work of ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. Alongside these archives the Accademia holds a photographs collection which should be digitized together with some new library acquisitions which are of special importance for Italian music of the Twentieth century.
Since the 1990s the Accademia has worked hard for the recovery, preservation and enhancement of this heritage which was also recognised of high historical interest by a resolution of 25th September 2001. At present thanks to public and private funding it was possible partially tidy up the archives, cataloguing and digitizing about one third of its collections. The Accademia has also begun its own editorial activity with the publishing of various book series and multimedia productions dedicated to the archives, two magazines, Yearbook and a specialized six-monthly journal.

The Accademia disseminates music culture through the preservation of its historical heritage; additionally through continuous enhancement and enabling access to this heritage, the Archive memories are passed not only to the scientific community, but - what's more - to the original local communities and to all music lovers.
Unfortunately the Archive's assets are at serious risk because of the ephemeral nature of audio supports, and because of the obsolescence of playback equipment. Same goes for analogue photographs and materials - such as manuscripts and scores - donated to the library by composers of the last century.
The project initially aims to complete the reorganization process as well as the cataloguing of those analogue media which keep musical memories of classical (concerts) and oral traditions and make up the Archives' collections. Subsequently these assets will be digitized in high resolution (Wave) for conservation, and compressed format (MP3) for public access. About half of the documents are already accessible online through the multimedia library portal: the objective is to catalogue and enhance those recordings which haven't yet been studied and don't appear in any published catalogue or inventory, because they were discovered during the moving of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia from it's original location to the new Auditorium. To these documents we should add photos and scores donated to the Accademia by prominent composers of the Twentieth century.
This crucial project is now seriously at risk because of the heavy public funding cuts culture has undergone, which in turn hinder the opportunity to invest in the initiative.
Therefore, in such a scenario, being able to count on the support of private bodies, which would enable the Accademia to carry on this preservation project for its Archives, is of extreme importance.
The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project.
The system developed by the Accademia for it's multimedia library is based on the modern XML language, using the X-DAMS technology, also in use by major Italian archives, amongst which the Italian Chamber of Deputies. All the musical heritage documents are described in nine databases, all based on the same platform, and thanks to which the Accademia has been able to put online most of its historical heritage for study and consultation by the public.
The system is designed to offer useful tools for the daily work of different sectors of the Accademia (for example the complete concert chronology is available to the artistic management and the press office, the stamp office can access the historical archive etc.).
The methodology used to catalogue and digitize books, photos and recordings adheres to national and international standards with respect to descriptions and digitization formats.
As for digitization criteria for audiovisual material, thanks to the flexibility of the digital environment, different qualities have been produced for different scopes: from 44.1 kHz/16 bit (standard audio CD resolution) up to 96 kHz/24 bit, which enables very high definition especially for conservation purposes. Conservation format is uncompressed Wave; for public access a high quality compressed version is created in the MPEG 1 Layer 3 (Mp3) format. Metadata for audio conforms to the MAG schema, defined but the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico (ICCU - Central Institute of Unified Catalogue) and the Istituto Centrale per i Beni Sonori e Audiovisivi (ICBSA - Central Institute for Audiovisual Heritage).

Since 2005 the users of the multimedia library have nearly quadruplicate, increasing from a figure of 8,230 in 2006 to the current 36,544 (31st October 2010) as shown by monthly statistics.
On the basis of previous work, specific agreements have been designed to accommodate user requests. For example to make available audio, books and photographs accessible without limits but conforming to current copyright law, a convention with the National Library of Bari has been signed, where a dedicated connection enables users to access all documents related to Puglia held by the Accademia Archives. Positive feedback from this initiative encourages its extension to other Italian Regions in response to the many user requests.
Regarding documents related to European and extra- European musical traditions, the enhancement of the Archives' assets will be particularly useful to promote better knowledge of different musical languages and cultures for the general public, and especially younger users, helping them develop a stimulating curiosity towards other civilizations and cultures. Within these objectives the Accademia has started in 2007 three different editorial series for children, all about music, which have gained great success amongst schools and public in general.

This project received another grant from the NPF in 2012.


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