Distributed Digital Music Archives and Libraries (DDMAL)


The main goal of this research program is to develop and evaluate practices, frameworks, and tools for the design and construction of worldwide distributed digital music archives and libraries. Over the last few millennia, humans have amassed an enormous amount of information and cultural material that is scattered around the world. It is becoming abundantly clear that the optimal path for acquisition is to distribute the task of digitizing the wealth of historical and cultural heritage material that exists in analogue formats, which may include books, manuscripts, music scores, maps, photographs, videos, analogue tapes, and phonograph records. In order to achieve this goal, libraries, museums, and archives throughout the world, large or small, need well-researched policies, proper guidance, and efficient tools to digitize their collections and to make them available economically. The research conducted within the program will address unique and imminent challenges posed by the digitization and dissemination of music media.

There are four major research projects within the program:

  • Development and evaluation of digitization methods for preservation of analogue recordings
  • Optical music recognition using microfilms
  • Design of workflow management system with automatic metadata extraction
  • Formulation of interlibrary communication strategies

This program officially started in March 2004 with an infrastructure funding (New Opportunities) from Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). An earlier version of this program had started in September 2002 and was called DDMLL (Distributed Digital Music Libraries Laboratory). Other funding sources include FQRSC (Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture, Government of Quebec), NSF (National Science Foundation), CIRMMT (Centre for Interdisciplinary Reserach in Music Media and Technology), and McGill University.


Much research is needed to ensure the proper digitization and preservation of analogue sound recordings which represent very important cultural heritage materials. Two different methods will be considered for the digitization of phonograph records: one mechanical and the other optical.

In the traditional mechanical means of sound reproduction using a stylus, one of the major challenges consists in choosing the appropriate analogue-to-digital (A/D) conversion system (turntable, tonearm, cartridge, preamp, interconnect cables, A/D converter, etc.) to achieve archival-quality results. A radical alternative means of digitization is to optically scan the phonographs for preservation and subsequently convert the scanned image to audio for access. There are tremendous advantages to preserving phonograph recordings as 2D or 3D images. This would make it possible to experiment freely with methods of converting to audio without touching the recordings themselves. [more...]

This project will proceed in parallel with the digitization of McGill music library’s 78rpm Jazz recording collection (funded by a three-year FQRSC research grant) and digitization of a unique collection of Handel LP recordings (funded by McGill’s Richard M. Tomlinson Digital Library Innovation Awards). See MAPP.


Unlike text databases, online content-searchable databases of music scores are extremely rare. The main reasons are the cost of digitization, the inaccessibility of original music scores and manuscripts, and the lack of sophisticated music recognition software. The proposed research will attempt to circumvent these problems by investigating the feasibility of using existing microfilms for digitization. [more...]


As libraries convert materials into digital formats, the need for efficient workflow management tools will increase. This research project will investigate developing an efficient and economical framework of tools to manage the workflow of large-scale digitization of musical materials. It aims to support the path from physical object and digitized material into a digital library repository by providing effective tools for perusing multimedia elements. The result of the process will include the audio files; both the images and the text of album covers, record labels, and liner notes; metadata about the recordings; images of scores and files in machine-readable format; and a database enabling the information to be searched and accessed via the web.

An important component of the research is to minimize human intervention by automatically generating text and metadata from the captured images using document analysis and recognition techniques. To implement the specialized document analysis required for this project, open-source software called Gamera will be used. [more...]


What is not directly investigated in the research projects outlined above is how to access the data once they are stored. This problem arises even for new digitally-born materials.

Since we cannot expect thousands of libraries worldwide to agree on the same database system or query system, the potential for applying the emerging technology called Web Services, which is designed to exchange information between different systems, will be investigated. The technology includes: Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI). Based on the XML format, UDDI is used to register each institution’s services; WSDL is used to describe the type of service, access protocol, and its location; and SOAP is used as the protocol to exchange information. [more...]


Created: 2004.03.09 Modified: Ichiro Fujinaga
McGill Crest