Sounding Spirit Launches Pilot Digital Library

The Sounding Spirit team is delighted to announce the launch of its inaugural digital library. The product of a one year NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Foundations grant, the pilot digital library features songbooks and hymnals published across the US South from 1850 to 1925. A federated collection spanning holdings from four partner archives, the Sounding Spirit digital library features twenty-two books of vernacular sacred including words-only hymnals, gospel songbooks, spirituals collections, and shape-note tunebooks. Curated into collections that highlight places, genres, denominational affiliations, and notation styles of American sacred music, the digital library allows for rich engagement with songbooks and hymnals seminal in their respective eras, but historically underrepresented in both archival holdings and scholarship.

The Emory Center for Digital Scholarship collaborated on this pilot library with four partner archives whose holdings complement Sounding Spirit’s research focus: Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives and Special Collections, and the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University.

The Sounding Spirit team and partner archives are already at work on the next phase of the digital library, planning to digitize hundreds of volumes identified during this planning grant process. Music bibliographer Erin Fulton collaborated with project director Jesse P. Karlsberg on the “Checklist of Southern Sacred Music Imprints, 1850–1925” that will guide the next phase of the project. As a dataset, the checklist already offers rich opportunities for researching the contours of American sacred songbook publishing. In addition to expanding the library, the team is also planning to incorporate lesson plans and teaching materials for a variety of learning levels, scholarly essays, and data visualizations about the site’s songbooks into the expanded Sounding Spirit digital library site. Until then, the Sounding Spirit team is excited to make these first collections of volumes accessible for research, teaching, and discovery.

Sounding Spirit invites audiences to begin exploring the initial batch of songbooks in the pilot digital library. Scholars, educators, and practitioners of all kinds are welcome! The project team hopes users will take full advantage of the platform’s features to engage the texts and textual communities whose publishing histories and singing practices can reframe our understanding of American sacred music—one text at a time.

Sounding Spirit Receives $260,000 NEH Grant for Digital Scholarly Editions

National Endowment for the Humanities new grant recipients announcement graphic comprised of an image representing each of several of the grant recipient projects

Sounding Spirit is pleased to announce receipt of a $260,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)’s Scholarly Editions and Translations program. This three-year peer reviewed grant will facilitate the editing and production of digital editions of five representative songbooks of gospel music, spirituals, shape-note music, and lined-out hymn singing.

The digital editions, richly annotated with text and multimedia, will be built using Readux, a platform developed by the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) for browsing, annotating, and publishing with digitized books. The digital and print editions will be co-published by ECDS and the University of North Carolina Press in a groundbreaking open access publishing partnership.

Jesse P. Karlsberg, editor-in-chief of Sounding Spirit and ECDS senior digital scholarship strategist will direct the grant project. ECDS’s Allen Tullos, Sara Palmer, Jay Varner, Yang Li, and Robert A. W. Dunn will also contribute expertise to the project. A new Sounding Spirit managing editor will join the team thanks to the NEH’s support.

Sounding Spirit is one of 218 projects to receiving funding, and one of two projects involving ECDS. According to NEH chairman Jon Parrish Peede, Sounding Spirit and the other projects funded by the NEH “strengthen and sustain the cultural life of our nation and its citizens.”

Sounding Spirit Receives $58,230 Second Grant from NEH for Sacred Music Digital Library

National Endowment for the Humanities new grant recipients graphic

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced in March 2019 that Sounding Spirit has received an additional grant of $58,230 to support our work making songbooks accessible. This grant from the NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program supplements our fall 2018 grant from the NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations program and will support our planning process for the upcoming year, as well as a pilot launch of a digital library of historical songbooks complementing our digital scholarly editions.

The following four archives with outstanding collections of vernacular sacred music books will partner with us in this grant project:

This expanded team of public and private institutions with a range of approaches to digitization and digital archiving will first draft and vet processes for digitization and ingest that meet the partners’ various institutional needs. To test these processes, we will launch a pilot site in which each grant partner will contribute five volumes consistent with the focus of the initiative and representative of their collections’ strengths. The planning work will be shared through a publicly accessible white paper and at scholarly meetings in order to support other consortiums of scholars and libraries engaging in related digitization, annotation, and collection work.

Sounding Spirit editor-in-chief Jesse P. Karlsberg will direct the planning process, along with managing editor Meredith Doster and ECDS‘s Allen Tullos and Jay Varner. The team will devise best practices for digitization and Readux publishing with the help of Emory LITS scholarly communications expert Melanie Kowalski and digitization team leader Kyle Fenton, as well as digitization and content consultants from each of the four partner archives.