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. Song-repertoire comprises ritual songs, short popular songs, ballads, military-songs, religious songs, small towns’ songs, children’s lore, lullabies, shepherds’ evocations etc. Instrumental music consists mostly of dance melodies. The recordings have been taken between the beginning of the 20th century and today. The collection still 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 digitized, worked out, described, catalogued, administered, developed and made accessible with a dedicated system which has been developed in the long-term project ETNOFON (Polish traditional music – a phonographic heritage. The present state, preservation and sharing). The system includes a database with a structure partly dedicated to the development of ethno-phonographic collections (of the Institute of Art as well as those obtained from other 30 institutions such as universities, museums, archives of radio stations, regional organizations and societies and even private collections) and a specialized application for servicing the digital archive. The application has two essential functions: 1. It provides access for administrator and editors (archivists, researchers) to all digital objects and metadata and their editing. 2. It enables users to browse the collections (simple and advanced search), with viewing and listening to the objects, and gives the opportunity 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, describing both digitized objects (carriers), their structure, objects management (e.g. data about the creators and performers of objects, date of object creation, technical data related to objects), as well as the digitalization process itself (e.g. used devices, their configuration, software, file formats, capacity, quality expressed by sample resolution, etc.). The application includes metadata allowing to connect 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 transcription), a carrier (e.g. a track-list, protocol, label scan, manuscripts etc.), a performer (artist's photography) or musical activity (e.g. instrument photography, related pictures). The system is administered by archivists-ethnomusicologists. It enables the work of many users at the same time. Changes in documents and objects are saved in the database allowing for 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 The system also allows to select quickly the desired material according with multiple criteria. Access to the data requires registration from the user. After logging in, the user may view the available metadata, and has the possibility to listen to the whole (or samples) of archival recordings - depending on their legal and technical status. Due to the different legal status of archival materials and the different degree of their development and release and edition, as well as due to the protection of personal data, access to resources is leveled and depends on the user's status (e.g. ordinary user, advanced user, scientist-researcher, editor). Access to data for all categories of users is free of charge.