Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin (Patrick Egan) | Digital Humanist and Ethnomusicologist in Cork, Ireland

Archival Science article

Patrick Egan (Pádraig Mac Aodhgáin) performing at the Library of Congress in August 2019 alongside local musicians from Washington DC

My research article “In search of the item: Irish traditional music, archived fieldwork and the digital” is now published in Archival Science journal, web version here: https://rdcu.be/cFzl9. Thanks to all at the Library of Congress, the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress Labs, Digital Specialist Matt Miller, and all the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

In this article, I demonstrate the challenges and possibilities for using #LinkedData with archived fieldwork (audio collections) from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The project, Connections in Sound, a case study that identified how archived audio metadata of Irish traditional music is important for infrastructure like @ITMADublin’s LITMUS project & Authority Files at @librarycongress & points towards future possibilities when using them.

The team developed datasets, created proof-of-concept RDF Triples using Python to connect non-commercial audio material across AFC collections and then on the WWW, with LITMUS ontology, the Séamus Connolly Collection in Boston & tune ID web scrapes on Irishtune.info.

This experimentation helps to inform possibilities & limitations for digital infrastructures as they evolve -ways of representing a more diverse selection of musical performers in archives & across the Web (especially musicians who perform but who do not record commercially)

Suggestion: enable diversity by using collections such as the AFC’s, musicians recorded by collectors. Add them to resources like Wikidata/Wikipedia so they can be identified & linked to multiple other performances of a certain tune / song / dance (both professional & amateur)

The ideal is a “multiplicity”, see Foley’s “Oral Traditions and the Internet”, “Listening to multiple versions…and programmatically denying priority to any single one – will go a long way toward providing a … sense of the song’s many-sided, irreducible character.”

There are many ways to represent Irish traditional music, and digital infrastructures are evolving, but archived collections of fieldwork that contain a wide variety of material from oral traditions could have a big part to play if considered.

This research was generously supported by the Fulbright Tech Impact Award and a Kluge Fellowship in Digital Studies. More to come as in 2022 I present my major survey of performers of Irish traditional music in North America.

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In search of the item: Irish traditional music, archived fieldwork and the digital


In the past ten years, a growing number of digital projects have emerged within archives, and they have placed a focus on using Linked Data to facilitate connections to be made between music related materials across the World Wide Web. Projects such as Linked Jazz exemplify the possibilities that can be achieved between researchers, digital experts and archivists.

Recent developments for Irish traditional music at the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) in Dublin, Ireland mean that the genre can also now be described using an extensive ontology, LITMUS (Linked Irish Traditional Music). In 2019, we engaged this ontology within a digital project entitled Connections in Sound, exploring the challenges and possibilities for Linked Data based on audio collections of Irish traditional music from the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The project adapted an experimental approach to enriching metadata from audio materials of Irish traditional music, song and dance at the AFC by creating and working with proof-of-concept resources. Using the project entitled Connections in Sound as a case study, this paper will demonstrate the challenges, opportunities and particularities related to engaging a range of fieldwork and transcribed metadata as Linked Data.

This paper suggests that the work of experimenting with certain types of non-commercial digital audio material for use in datasets and digital infrastructures informs ways to represent diversity of musical traditions in the archive and across the World Wide Web.

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