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NYU Libraries to Team with Internet Archive to Preserve High Quality Musical Content on the Web

March 27, 2015
N-298 2014-15

New York University Libraries is leading a collaboration with NYU’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program and San Francisco-based Archive-It, a service of the Internet Archive (IA) to ensure that the websites of musical composers can be collected, preserved, and made accessible today and in the future, with sound and visual quality at a level significantly higher than current web archiving standards.

The project, Archiving the Websites of Contemporary Composers, is funded with a grant of $480,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“We are extremely grateful for this grant, which recognizes our expertise in born digital and multimedia preservation, and our commitment to developing new capabilities in this critical area across the archival community,” says Carol A. Mandel, Dean of the NYU Division of Libraries.

“Many music websites have enormous potential research value as primary sources in music history,” says Kent Underwood, NYU’s music librarian and head of its Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media (AFC). “But websites are unstable and vulnerable to loss.  This project will give us the tools we need to ensure that Internet-based musical content doesn’t disappear from the cultural record.”  Underwood will serve as curatorial director of the project, selecting approximately 100 websites as a test repository.

“The historical significance of composers is measured primarily by their artistic achievement,” continues Underwood. “For that reason, the documents of their music—in particular the audio and video recordings—should be preserved at the highest quality possible.” Yet master-level recordings are rarely available on the live Internet; more often, the music is delivered in sonically inferior compressed formats, such as MP3. A principal and specific aim of the project, therefore, is to develop protocols for obtaining master-level recordings and integrating them into the archival copies of the websites with which they are associated.

More broadly, the initiative addresses the host of challenges posed by the rapid pace of advancement in web technologies and protocols. "Commercial developers have been continually introducing new strategies for web streaming of audiovisual content," according to MIAP Founding Director Howard Besser. "And the proliferation of different approaches has impeded efforts by web archivists to capture, preserve, and replay web content in the archival environment. This project will be the first to systematically address the challenges of capturing streaming media from a variety of different web streaming approaches."

The basis of the project is NYU’s Archive of Contemporary Composers’ Websites, begun in 2013, which now includes over 300 individual sites.  The websites have been collected using IA’s Archive-It software. In this new project, April Hathcock, Scholarly Communications Librarian, and Underwood will work with a select group of about 100 composers to secure rights to integrate master-level audio and video elements with the websites already archived in the IA repository.

The project brings together NYU Libraries’ expertise in digital multimedia preservation and music collecting with IA’s capability in cutting-edge web archiving.  IA, the leader in the web archiving field, will develop new tools or significantly enhance existing tools and web crawlers such as Umbra and Heritrix to improve the capture and replay of audiovisual materials on the web. IA will also work with NYU to make master-level non-web audiovisual materials discoverable through online web archives. Jefferson Bailey, Program Manager, Web Archiving Services and Programs, will manage IA’s role in this project.

A MIAP researcher will work with composers in the project to evaluate their expectations for and satisfaction with their archived sites.

NYU Libraries’ Digital Library Technology Services (DLTS) will create a connection between NYU’s repository and the Archive-It service by means of an API (application programming interface) to ensure that the highest-quality multimedia assets are held according to formal digital preservation standards and are easily discoverable.  That, explains David Millman, director of DLTS and project leader, will involve enhancing current workflows so archivists can routinely deposit master content and link it to its corresponding website.

“Our main goal, Millman says, “is to create a rich and easily accessible digital research environment for scholars today and in the future."

The NYU Division of Libraries holds over 4 million volumes and comprises of five libraries in Manhattan and one each in Brooklyn, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai,. Its flagship, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library on Washington Square, receives 2.6 million visits annually. Around the world the Libraries offers access to more than 1.2 million electronic journals, books, and databases. For more information about the NYU Libraries, please visit

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Tisch School of the Arts, Division of Libraries

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876


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