Minstrels, metaphors and social media

One of the dubious joys of being dual-qualified is the sensation of being pulled in [at least] two directions at any given time. 

For example, this summer I spoke at the IAML Music Libraries’ international conference in Dublin.  My subject was ‘Minstrels and Metaphors’.  This is a fascinating subject which has preoccupied me for a good few months since graduating with my PhD.  (It was in Music, though you could be forgiven for thinking it was in literature or cultural history).

There were interesting challenges, though. 

To start with, my research had been into Scottish late 18th and 19th century song collectors, but I was speaking in Ireland.  Easy; I simply had to extend my scope to make it Celtic, as opposed to just Scottish.   Enter Thomas Moore, the United Irishmen, and a touch of Welsh bardic nostalgia. 

And secondly, how was I going to make musicology, literature and cultural history relevant to music librarians, not all of whom had studied music history to degree level?  I got round that by emphasising the significance of the song collections I was talking about, and the importance of preserving them in our music libraries.

All went well.  I discovered some fascinating material on Irish contemporary collections while I was preparing my paper, and I now have my own personal mission to see what Irish collections are available in Glasgow academic special collections!

But then …!  Last week I was invited to speak at next year’s national IAML (UK and Ireland) study weekend.  It’s in Cardiff.  Now, I’ve looked at a couple of Welsh collections in connection with this year’s Celtic paper for the Dublin conference.  I’m not sure I want to typecast myself as “the librarian who talks about 19th century Celtic song collections”.  It’s enthralling (to me), but a bit limiting.  So, what to do?

My vague plan is to indulge in a bit of crowd-sourcing.  If I can set up a wiki for people in other countries to share their own national ‘minstrels and metaphors’ findings, I will then have a much wider scope to talk about – and, even better, I can talk about crowd-sourcing and an international research project, as well as 19th century Celtic song collections.

Anyone feel like telling me about French collections (with music, not words-only publications) during the French Revolution?  I’ll post a link as soon as I’ve set up my wiki!


About Karen Mcaulay

Karen McAulay divides her time between librarianship and musicology. 2012-15, was seconded part-time to an AHRC funded project into Scottish fiddle tune collections, contributing bibliographical and musicological data to the Historical Music of Scotland website http://hms.scot (blog http://www.music.arts.gla.ac.uk/bassculture/). She's currently researching the University of St Andrews' historic music copyright collection, & was recently awarded an AHRC networking grant to extend this research nationally. As well as speaking on her research specialism, she is also in demand to talk about research skills and her career as a part-time researcher.

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