Bringing the Past into the Future: Creating and Curating Digital Music Archives (Seoul, South Korea)

Ewha Womans University campus

On October 28 and 29, 2016, our colleagues from RISM South Korea were our hosts for the conference Bringing the Past into the Future: Creating and Curating Digital Music Archives, held at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. The conference had a twofold purpose: a symposium and concert on October 28 to celebrate 50 years of the compositional career of Younghi Pagh-Paan (born 1945), a Korean-born composer who has lived in Germany since the 1970s, and a conference on October 29 with a focus on digital music archives.

In addition to conference speakers from Taiwan, Europe, and North America, attendees included students from Ewha, librarians from Seoul, and some of our IAML and RISM colleagues from Japan and Taiwan—affording us a direct and rare opportunity to hold discussions face-to-face. Members of the RISM Chinese Language Region working group, our newest RISM working group, were in attendance.

For the symposium, we were lucky to have Younghi Pagh-Paan herself in the audience. After hearing five musicological papers covering various aspects of her compositions, we were treated to a concert held in the evening which brought together many of the threads we heard that afternoon.

The conference highlighted a number of ongoing projects concerning digital archives. These will be explained in more detail in a report for BI-International (link will follow), but briefly they were:

In addition to projects, we heard about database design and theory from:

  • Bongki Moon and Jinseon Yu: Overview of data structures and databases
  • Jusub Kim and Shin-Hyo Kim: "Interactive storytelling" to steer database design and facilitate exploration using the three-tier approach of overview – zoom in – detail
  • Frans Wiering: Putting "humans" back into the "humanities" by considering user needs when designing databases

For RISM, Klaus Keil gave an overview of the structure of the RISM database and focused on linking out to digital resources and collaboration with other international projects. Jennifer Ward talked about the format of the RISM data and ways these are reused in digital music archives and other projects. Chun-Zen Huang (National Taiwan Normal University) spoke as a representative of our newest RISM working group, RISM Chinese Language Region, and emphasized the need for digital initiatives to meet international standards for description and preservation. He told us how many projects in the region have been quick to digitize without paying attention to preserving the physical item. Challenges include training professionals and the lack of people with music backgrounds involved in the digitization process. RISM is therefore an important partner for his working group and provides well-established guidelines and a clear structure for describing and preserving important cultural heritage items. 

Conference in Seoul
Photo courtesy of JeongYoun Chang

After the conference, fifteen participants joined Jennifer, Klaus, and Laurent for a Muscat workshop that was simultaneously webcast to participants in the Philippines. The two-hour workshop had the practical goal to introduce both long-time and newer RISM contributors to our new cataloging program, and had the added benefit of showing conference attendees how we created structured data for our database. Our colleagues from RISM Chinese Language Region flew in especially for this workshop, so it was exciting to see them there.


Muscat workshop in Seoul
Muscat workshop

We are grateful to our colleagues at Ewha for the invitation to the conference and to BI-International for providing financial assistance for travel. We are looking forward to continued collaboration with our colleagues in East Asia.



Category: Events

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