Sound Investments: Rounding off the DAP Project

One year on and the DAP Project is coming to a close. Over the past twelve months ITMA has successfully digitised over 2,400 carriers resulting in over 24,000 media files and approximately 24 terabytes of data. This means we will soon have over 2,050 searchable digital items listed and described to international archival standard (ISADg) available through our new AtoM interface, which we look forward to sharing with you in the future.

Dap 11 Crop

Looking at these final figures really brings home the scale of this mass-digitisation project and we would once again like to acknowledge that it was made possible with generous funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as pat of the Department’s ‘national digitisation investment programme.’ A large-scale investment of this nature has kick-started ITMA’s digital preservation strategy, and prompted us to make key decisions regarding digitisation, digital acquisition, and future cataloguing and collection arrangement. All these decisions will eventually be consolidated into various institutional policies, which will further support and strengthen our strateg

As the archivist overseeing this project I developed a strong appreciation for how the audio and audiovisual collections at ITMA have been catalogued and contextualised over the years by many different contributors. Many of the CDs digitised were catalogued down to track level with incredibly detailed information about tunes, performers and instruments. Aside from digitisation and digital preservation one of the key aims of the project was to parse this incredibly rich catalogue information into the archival standard used within AtoM. This job would not have been possible without the tireless work of Niall O’Leary, the project’s digital humanities consultant, who built an amazing online database that took the old catalogue records and reformatted them into the new standard (to put it simply). At this point I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of all the ITMA staff who contributed their skills and knowledge to the project. 

Standardising these catalogue descriptions means that ITMA’s rich metadata can be optimised within AtoM. Standardised entry points, such as people, places, and subjects will allow new ways of discovering and exploring material, and the relational collection hierarchies will allow new ways of browsing and contextualising audiovisual material. ITMA also has plans to use the platform’s capabilities to develop data visualisation tools such as interactive maps. Exciting times!

It was my great pleasure to attend and speak about the DAP Project at the launch of the Michael McNamara Collection in Carrigallen, Leitrim just before Christmas. The Michael McNamara collection of reel-to-reel tapes was launched in conjunction with a curated online exhibition, Furls of Music, made possible with digital audio files generated as part of the DAP project. Getting to see what becomes of the DAP Project’s digital files was immensely satisfying and having the opportunity to meet Michael and the rest of the McNamara family who performed on the night, really shone a light on the ways in which ITMA engages with its donors and with the wider traditional music community.

Online exhibitions such as Furls of Music and the recent Dusty Bluebells site, which highlighted children’s song in the collections of Hugh Shields, are a testament to the archive’s consistently creative engagement with its user groups. Though the work involved often takes place behind the scenes the initial investment in high-quality digital surrogates will ultimately serve to increase the visibility of ITMA’s vibrant multimedia collections. 

In today’s world the preservation of traditional music is not possible without ongoing digitisation, digital preservation and an investment in a digital preservation strategy. The DAP Project has become the first phase of ITMA’s new strategy for preservation and access and we feel confident that ITMA’s users, both present and future, will see the fruits of this investment for many years to come.

*Read Fionnuala's first blog Preserving Ireland's Traditional Sound Heritage (27 May 2019) here.

The DAP Project was made possible through generous funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of the Digitised Collections Funding Scheme.