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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Jesse P. Karlsberg; Email: jesse.p.karlsberg@emory.edu

Contributor information: Jesse P. Karlsberg (project director), conceptualization, writing—original draft, writing—review and editing; Erin Fulton (music bibliographer), writing—original draft, writing—review and editing.

No competing interests declared.


Research Funding:

The Sounding Spirit Digital Library planning process was supported by a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access (PW-264219-19).


  • digital library
  • music
  • thematic teaching and research collections
  • southern sacred vernacular music
  • Emory Center for Digital Scholarship

Interinstitutional Thematic Collection Development: Technical and Procedural Considerations from the Sounding Spirit Digital Library


Journal Title:

Sounding Spirit


Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


This white paper shares insights on the development of digital thematic teaching and research collections. The report draws on the yearlong planning process for the Sounding Spirit Digital Library, an open access digital resource collecting southern sacred vernacular music books published between 1850 and 1925. Funded by a Foundations grant from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), this planning process was led by a team based at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) and staff at four archives with strong holdings of southern vernacular sacred music, with the support of an engaged advisory board. This white paper first outlines the major activities of the planning process, which included 1) music bibliographic research informing digitization plans, resulting in the publication of a “Checklist of Southern Sacred Music Imprints, 1850–1925”; 2) the formalization of the partnership between ECDS and participating archives; 3) workshopping of interinstitutional digitization and optical character recognition processes, and the application of these processes through the digitization of twenty-two songbooks; 4) the launch of a pilot digital library site that organizes these music books into collections and enhances them with descriptive entries; and 5) the development of a plan for implementation, resulting in the submission of an application for support from the NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program. For each of these components of the planning process, the white paper offers context that informed our approach, an outline of our processes, and a discussion of major outcomes. The white paper concludes with recommendations building on our experience. These recommendations are organized around three themes: 1) thematic collection development, 2) collaboration in developing digital resources, and 3) approaches to digitization and optical character recognition.

Copyright information:

2020 Sounding Spirit

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