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New York Philharmonic Receives $2.4 Million Grant From Leon Levy Foundation to Complete Digitization of Archives

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New York Philharmonic Receives $2.4 Million Grant From Leon Levy Foundation to Complete Digitization of Archives

The New York Philharmonic has received a $2.4 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to complete the digitization of its extensive Archives, beginning with its founding in 1842 through the present day. The grant builds on previous funding from the Leon Levy Foundation - now totaling $5 million since 2007 - which funded the digitization of the 1.3 million pages currently available. When completed, the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives will contain almost 3 million pages comprising all documents in the New York Philharmonic Archives - including correspondence, marked scores and parts, contracts, and Board minutes - from 1842 through 1970, as well as all public documents - including marketing materials, press releases, and annual reports - from 1970 through today. The Digital Archives' infrastructure will also be modified to integrate born-digital documents created today, as well as additional technological enhancements. Launched in February 2011, the Digital Archives currently includes historic material from 1943-70 including programs, marked scores and orchestral parts, business documents, photos, and more. The completion of the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives will create one of the world's most comprehensive online collections documenting a single cultural institution, as well as provide the structure for growth into the future.

Coinciding with the announcement of the grant, the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives has made available the complete collection of materials from its inaugural season, 1842-43. Highlights include the first annual report detailing the Orchestra's finances from the inaugural season, consisting of three concerts, and the contents of its orchestra library (27 items); the printed program from the Orchestra's inaugural concert; the first-edition score of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony used in the inaugural concert; the New York Philharmonic's constitution, signed in April 1842; the list of audience members who subscribed to the inaugural
season; an early concert review from The Albion; and photographs of founding Music Director Ureli Corelli Hill.

The grant will also support technological enhancements to the Digital Archives such as the development of a mobile-friendly framework; transcriptions of 19th-century handwritten material presented side-by-side with the originals; full-text search within documents through optical character recognition (OCR); a new document viewer that will accommodate large pages of press-clipping scrapbooks; and personalized shopping carts that will allow researchers to save their search results, supporting long-term study. In addition, open application access to the
metadata (API) will allow developers to generate apps using the data, thereby enabling Philharmonic data to link with other archives, digital humanities researchers, and app developers.

The next release of material will include the Philharmonic's printed programs from 1842 through the present day, expected to be available by the end of 2014. Highlights of future materials to be digitized include the only known copies of the first editions of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini and Les Francs-juges Overtures and Wagner's Rienzi Overture; scores of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony marked by Gustav Mahler and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 used by Mahler and Arturo Toscanini; the original English-language choral parts used at the 1846 U.S. Premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; the manuscript parts created for the 1893 World Premiere of Dvo?ák's New World Symphony; and correspondence with Mahler, Theodore Thomas, Toscanini, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, among others.

"The New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives would not have been possible without the generosity, trust, and partnership of Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation," said New York Philharmonic Executive Director Matthew VanBesien. "Since its initial launch, the Digital Archives has demonstrated that it is the perfect manifestation of the way that this Orchestra can serve as a rich and irreplaceable resource for the world. This project both preserves the Philharmonic's vaunted legacy and ensures that we are able to document its future. The Leon Levy Foundation understands that the history of this great Orchestra sheds light on cultural and civic history, and that the digital presentation of the Philharmonic's continuing legacy will offer future scholars, musicians, and music lovers much to discover. I thank them for their belief in the New York Philharmonic's cultural role for the last 172 years and into the future."

"These archives are part, not only of the history of the Philharmonic, but also of the culture of New York City," said Shelby White, Founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. "The response of the public since 2011 has confirmed the importance of the project, and providing access to the Philharmonic's entire history will make it immeasurably more valuable for research. The Leon Levy Foundation is proud to support it."

"There are few organizations that could justify preserving the level of detail that the New York Philharmonic does," said New York Philharmonic Archivist/Historian Barbara Haws. "The history of the New York Philharmonic - a world-class entity, reflecting the power of its hometown, and known for attracting great artists and leaders over a long time span - provides a window through which our culture can be explored and examined. Recognizing that the Philharmonic's rich tradition is ongoing, the Leon Levy Foundation has generously guaranteed global access to this amazingly long narrative for generations to come. With great foresight, the Leon Levy Foundation has kept in mind future generations: just as scholars today research our history from 1864 or 1964, scholars in 2064 will be able to study Philharmonic documents being created today, allowing an evaluation and celebration of a continuous run of history far into the future."

Since its launch in February 2011, the newly named New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives, available online at archives.nyphil.org, has generated more than 250,000 unique visitors from more than 175 countries, resulting in 1,695,000 page views, with usage growing more than five-fold from the launch, achieving an average of 5,500 hits per week. Of those 250,000 unique visitors, 62,900 researchers have returned to the site ten or more times; of those, 11,044 individuals have used the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives more than 200 times. This magnitude of research would not be possible without the digital availability of the material, as there would be no way to physically accommodate so many interested researchers.

Current material available in the Digital Archives includes 1,781 scores marked by Leonard Bernstein, Andre Kostelanetz, and others,15,896 music parts marked by Philharmonic musicians, 3,235 printed programs, 1943-70, 4,069 business and planning folders, and16,339 photographs and images.

All documents and the photographs themselves have been photographed - not scanned - by Ardon Bar Hama and his team using innovative and advanced techniques to achieve the highest quality. The images are managed in Alfresco, an open-source digital asset management system configured by a team of developers led by Ray Wijangco of Technology Services Group (TSG) in coordination with the Philharmonic's Digital Archives team headed by Mitch Brodsky.

The New York Philharmonic Archives, the oldest and most comprehensive collection of any symphony orchestra, contains approximately six million pages that date back to its founding in 1842, with holdings that include correspondence, business records, orchestral scores and parts, photographs, concert programs, and newspaper clippings, as well as concert and broadcast recordings dating from the 1920s.

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