Before the radio burst into millions of homes during the 1920s the piano often was the focus of the evening’s entertainment for many middle class families. The sheet music of the 19th and early 20th centuries provides revealing glimpses into the attitudes and culture of earlier times. Many digital collections of this repertoire are available, a few starting places include:
- The Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection is housed at Johns Hopkins University. Its strengths include Civil War and World War I era material.
- The Irish Sheet Music Archive holds more than 5,000 pieces of Irish and Irish-American music. The browse function allows the user to quickly focus in on their particular area of interest.
- Brown University’s African American Sheet Music Collection is easy to navigate and offers an in-depth view of this distinct body of work.
- An exhaustive list of digitized musical resources from the Middle Ages onward may be found at: http://drm.ccarh.org/ .
While some do require specialized skills to read, many could be used by researchers in other fields without difficulty.
– Matthew Stock, Fine and Applied Arts Librarian, University of Oklahoma