Today is our first day of real work with the Greggiati collection. For me, this represents the culmination of a ton of scheduling (just getting here logistically was tricky) and the beginning of something new. We spent yesterday getting our bearings – getting acquainted with the city and the Greggiati collection. This morning we finally get our hands dirty.
The town held a press conference yesterday about our activities in the city. After a short introduction from the Mayor, Dr. Zanovello presented the overall goals of the collaboration between Indiana University and Greggiati collection. I enjoyed very much his comments. For one thing, they help me stay oriented. The vision for this project stretches far beyond this month in Ostiglia and includes the collection and assimilation of data that one cannot include in the cataloguing process, but which is nonetheless extremely valuable. For instance, one of the goals he discussed is thinking about the pieces of music in their context as a personal collection. In my experience, often one thinks about musical works individually (such as “Mozart’s Requiem”) or perhaps as part of a composer’s oeuvre or generic collection (such as “Bach’s Cantatas” or “Renaissance Motets”). In contrast, here we are trying to think of these pieces as part of a historical collection that includes multiple composers, time periods, and genres. The more I think about it, this seems all too logical to the point that conceiving of music in any other way seems anachronistic. Certainly this is the way most people interacted with most music at the time. In fact, libraries are still often organized around historical collections (even at IU we have collections such as the Woodward LPs). Of course, this is obscured by the current use of computer interfaces to library catalogues, and this is really where the Greggiati project is breaking new ground. We are thinking in these, more historically sensitive, terms while creating the data that users will access through computer catalogue interfaces.
It is with this orientation that we approach our first day in the archive. There are all too may questions that we are going to face. What information is important? Where is the appropriate balance in cataloguing between sufficient data and unnecessary detail? How do I resist the strong temptation to spend all of my time researching interesting things we find and actually get my job done?