The Phonographic Collection of The Institute of Art is the oldest sound archive of traditional music in Poland. It contains nearly 200 000 recordings of folk songs and instrumental tunes from all over Poland, including borderlands and national minorities. Apart from folk music, there are also recordings of speeches and interviews with folk artists. The earliest recordings date back to the beginning of the 20th century. The collection keeps growing, with new recordings being made also in the context of the present-day culture, e.g. stage concerts, festivals, but also in traditional rituals and customs. The oldest recorded performers were singers born in 1854, and a large number of recorded artists were born in the second half of the 19th century.
The collection is currently being digitized, examined, described, catalogued, administered, developed and made accessible with a dedicated system that has been developed in the long-term project ETNOFON (Polish traditional music – a phonographic heritage. The present state, preservation and sharing). The aim of the system is to support the development of the Institute of Art own ethno-phonographic collections as well as those obtained from 30 other institutions such as universities, museums, archives of radio stations, regional organizations and societies and private collections.
The system includes a database and a specialized application for servicing the digital archive. The application has two essential functions: 1. It provides access for administrators and editors (archivists, researchers) to all digital objects and metadata and their editing. 2. It enables users to browse the collections using simple and advanced search, with viewing and listening to the objects. It also provides the options to select, compare and research selected digital copies of music recordings and documents including context metadata.
The system presents descriptive, administrative and technical metadata organized in the registers, that describe both digitized objects (carriers), their structure, objects management (e.g. data about the creators and performers of objects, the date of object creation, technical data related to objects), and the digitalization process itself (e.g. used devices, their configuration, software, file formats, capacity, quality expressed by sample resolution, etc.).
The application includes metadata that allows to link different types of documents (e.g. sound, image, text). It provides an overview of digitized graphic documents associated with the recordings (e.g. music or text transcriptions), a carrier (e.g. a track-list, protocol, label scan, manuscripts etc.), a performer (e.g. the artist's photography) or musical activity (e.g. instrument photography, related pictures).
The system is administered by archivists-ethnomusicologists. It features multiuser access and tracking the history of changes. Files stored and processed in the system can exist in various data formats. Each document has a defined set of attributes describing features specific to a given registry.
The system has built-in complex document searching mechanisms enabling full-text searching, advanced search using selected attributes of the document, and search based on a specific keyword structure. To listen to music and to watch audiovisual materials, there is a built-in audio- and video-player.
To access to the data requires user registration. After logging in, the user can view the available metadata and has the possibility to listen to entire archival recordings or just samples, depending on their current legal and technical status. The access to each resource is leveled and depends on the user's access rights (e.g. ordinary user, advanced user, scientist-researcher, editor). This is mainly due to the requirement of protecting personal data of the recorded performers and varying legal statuses of the archival materials. The access to data for all user categories is free of charge.