Annual Report 2023

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Crowning the intensive development of several years, by late 2023 the RISM database hit a new benchmark of 1.5 million source records, freely searchable through both the classic RISM Catalog and the recently developed RISM Online interface. This impressive increase in part results from the ongoing cataloging activity of our international workings groups (among which the German, the Polish and the Czech ones proved the most active in 2023 as well), but is also thanks to the RISM Editorial Center’s further publication of data imported from the Italian collective catalog maintained by the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico. Overall, at the end of the year the RISM data pool consisted of more than 1,290,000 records for descriptions of music manuscripts and over 232,000 records for printed editions, while the number of links to digital objects also rose to about 136,000, implying a notable increase by almost 26,000.

In addition, access to even more RISM-relevant data has been made possible by the RISM Digital Center’s enhancement of RISM Online, thanks to which users of this interface now also receive hits from the database of the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM). While at the moment this improvement (first presented to the public as part of the RISM session at the Munich MedRen congress in July 2023) offers but a few thousand extra records, further experiments along these lines could potentially play a central role in expanding RISM’s coverage in the following years.

In the meantime, the Bavarian State Library also substantially updated the traditional RISM Catalog, including a shift to the open-source search engine VuFind (the most practical benefit of which is that our users will no longer be hindered by timeout messages). While this new version is still in Beta state, the old RISM Catalog kept attracting an ever larger audience: on average, it was visited by about 13,110 people per month over 43.488 visits (annually: 157.325 people with 521.861 visits and 13.8 million page views).

In August 2023, at the annual congress of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML) the RISM Editorial Center launched a new initiative to involve IAML’s national branches in updating and maintaining the authority data for the institutions located in the respective countries. At the same Cambridge event we also gave our first public report on an important project undertaken in cooperation with the RISM Digital Center, the Centre for Digital Music Documentation (CDMD) of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, and the Saxon State and University Library Dresden, aimed at improving the data quality of specifically the music incipits included in RISM’s source descriptions. Realized under the auspices of the German research data consortium NFDI4Culture, this project has already enabled us to correct well over 100.000 smaller or greater errors, taking a significant step toward ensuring the overall consistency of the data and thereby the better searchability of these incipits (which for many users proves one of the most intriguing opportunities offered by RISM’s vast database).

In conclusion of this brief report, it is worth pointing out some recent and forthcoming changes in the structure of the RISM project overall. The RISM Editorial Center (better known as RISM Zentralredaktion Frankfurt) has received a final two-year extension as part of the German Akademienprogramm, and can thus continue its work until the end of 2025, even though with a reduced budget (a change that our users will hopefully take little notice of). Since the German RISM working group is also supported by the Akademienprogramm until the same date, it seems only logical that, beyond 2025, the two should continue their work in closer cooperation than before, also relying on long-standing institutional relationships with the state libraries in Munich, Berlin, and Dresden. Negotiations in this regard are well underway, and we can be hopeful that the first pillars of the new structure can be presented to the larger community already next year. Meanwhile, RISM has also grown another “foot,” so to speak, in Switzerland with the Digital Center, which takes its steps in close consultation with the Frankfurt “foot,” giving the entire RISM network more stability on an international level. In acknowledgment of this new workflow, the tasks of the Commission Mixte (delegated by the Boards of the IMS and IAML, respectively) have been reconsidered, and it is now overseeing not only the work of the Editorial Center in Frankfurt, but also that of the Digital Center in Bern, thereby ensuring that RISM – the inevitable changes notwithstanding – can further improve its services to the global community of performing musicians, music scholars, and all kinds of information professionals.

The entire 2023 annual report can be found on the RISM website.

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