Friday, August 17, 2007

Ball State University Libraries’ Musical Instrument Collection is the Newest Addition to the Digital Media Repository

The Ball State University Libraries’ Musical Instrument Collection is the newest addition to the Digital Media Repository (DMR). It is another example of how digital collections can expose students, faculty, and researchers to robust resources in the Libraries’ collections.
This collection can be viewed at or browse the Educational Resources Collections at
This collection uses digital photographs, streaming audio files, and 3-D rotating videos to represent the wide assortment of musical instruments available for checkout for two week loan (with option for renewal) in the Libraries’ Educational Resources Collections.
The collection of physical instruments has been growing since 1938. The earliest instrument represented online is a shepherd flute, a wind instrument made of bamboo. To discover their physical location and availability, click on the “Locate This Item in CardCat” link in the document description view in the DMR.
The online artifacts in the Musical Instrument Collection provide examples of a wide variety of instrument types, such as percussion, stringed, and wind instruments. The instruments also represent numerous cultures from five continents. The collection can be used in research of those various cultures, and the instruments themselves can be implemented in displays that illustrate the culture to which they are indigenous.
This collection of musical instruments is valuable to educators and students, as many can be used in the classroom for the instruction of music skills. There are numerous percussion instruments, including several multi-player sets that are perfect for hands-on student activities. Autoharps and various other instruments can also be used by student teachers to teach music in the classroom.
The flexible functionality of the Digital Media Repository, backed by CONTENTdm, allowed Metadata and Digital Initiatives (MADI) staff to package multimedia items for each instrument together in one compound object. These digital objects are essentially portfolios of each instrument that include digital photographs, streaming audio files, and 3-D rotating videos.
Working with laptops and microphones, MADI staff built a modular recording studio. Most of the instruments were played and recorded, and the sound files were then transferred to audio workstations for mixing. The intent for the recordings is to provide sound clips that students, faculty, and researchers can use to learn how an instrument sounds, particularly for some of the more obscure items like the West-African rattle-like instrument called axatse.
In addition to sound samples and still images, MADI personnel created QuickTime virtual reality videos of many of the instruments. Items were photographed from several angles and then compiled into a movie file, which allows the user control over how he/she views the object. The movies present the viewer with a more complete view of an object that cannot be captured in merely still images.
For more information about the Musical Instruments Collection in the DMR, contact Amanda A. Hurford, Ball State University’s Digital Initiatives Multimedia Developer,, (765) 285-3349.

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