Hidden in the Stacks: Rediscovering Newnham’s Musical Collection

Pfeiffer Arch - The original main entrance to Newham College, Cambridge; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. Attribution: Orangecounty2008 at en.wikipedia

Pfeiffer Arch - The original main entrance to Newham College, Cambridge; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. Attribution: Orangecounty2008 at en.wikipedia

I am the graduate trainee at Newnham College library, a position I’ve been in since September. I’ve been blogging about my trainee year over at The Hobbit Hole. As a music graduate I’ve been following the MusiCB3 blog with interest since it started, and I’m delighted to have been asked to write a guest post.

At Newnham we don’t have a huge music section in the library, and what we do have mainly consists of books about music rather than notated music. However a few years ago we were given the college’s Raleigh Music Society’s music collection, which is now sitting in our basement stacks. Most of the music is uncatalogued and unclassified, so one of my projects this year is to get all of this music ready to be borrowed. Our classification system will probably need to be reorganised to accommodate all this new music, as at the moment all our music is either catalogued as “Musical Scores”, “Anthologies of Music” or “Miniature Scores”. I’d like to expand this so we have a bit more depth to the classification!

Another thing we will need to think about is how we are going to make the collection available. Some of the more fragile items will need to go in the closed stack, but we’d ideally like as much as possible to be on the open shelves.

The Cavendish Music Books (uncatalogue copy at Newham College)

The Cavendish Music Books (uncatalogue copy at Newham College)

Interestingly, some of the music was donated by Agatha Russell (Bertrand Russell’s aunt). Some books have Newnham bookplates in so clearly belonged to the library at some point, but at a later date it must have been decided not to keep music and the collection was given to the Music Society. However, after a leaky vending machine caused a flood in the cupboard where it was being kept, it was decided to move the music back to the safety of the library! The collection has been in our stacks ever since.

Saint-Saens, Vingt Melodies, 1896 (uncatalogue copy at Newham College)

Saint-Saens, Vingt Melodies, 1896 (uncatalogue copy at Newham College)

Some interesting things have turned up in the collection. A book of Saint-Saëns’s songs from 1896 still had uncut pages, as well as having a beautiful green and gold front cover. A book of Mendelssohn’s songs has gorgeous marbled flyleaves. And I was very sad to find that the second piano part was missing from an 8-hand arrangement of Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite (I would have loved to try that out!)

I’m enjoying the chance to be doing something that combines my interest in libraries and my interest in music, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I like to think of as “my” little collection go out onto the shelves and get used by students.

Annie Johnson
Library Graduate Trainee (Newham College)

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About musicb3

The "author" MusiCB3 is used for all the "guest contributions". Every post by a guest is signed. Most of our guests are based in Cambridge (libraries). If you would like to contribute to this blog as a guest please contact us via music [at-sign-thingy] lib [dot] cam [dot] ac [dot] uk.
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2 Responses to Hidden in the Stacks: Rediscovering Newnham’s Musical Collection

  1. Sarah Stamford says:

    Fascinating – how much material is there in the collection?
    We’ve just finished a reclassification project so if you would like any ideas on reclassing music do get in touch, or call in next door.

    Like

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