ethnoArc - Linked European Ethnomusical Archives

From September 2006 to August 2008, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin headed and coordinated this multi-institution project funded by the European Commission. Six partners from four countries made the collections of the participating folk music archives in Bucharest, Budapest, Berlin, and Geneva more accessible. Software was developed that makes it possible for researchers and other interested parties to view the catalog inventory of the sound archives and to research their meta-data architectures in graphic depiction. In the course of implementation, the archives were simultaneously supported in their efforts for digitalization and catalogization.

Partner institutions:


In the course of the year 2005, the Wissenschaftskolleg and six partners worked out a project that will secure and provide better access to the ethno-musical holdings of several sound archives. The goal is to jointly develop a digital access portal that will allow researchers and other interested parties to research the holdings of the networked archives in Bucharest, Budapest, Geneva, and Berlin. To enable the software developers to design and realize the architecture of the database, an intensive exchange between all participants will be required, so that they can agree on the set of underlying assignments of descriptive data (meta-data). In the course of implementation, the archives will also be supported in their efforts to digitalize and catalog their materials. The European Union will finance ethnoArc for two years.

The idea for the project arose from the Wissenschaftskolleg's knowledge of the Romanian ethnological archive in Bucharest, and this institution is the primary focus of concern: For many years, the Wissenschaftskolleg, in close cooperation with the New Europe College, strove to find ways and means to digitalize and register the unique sound documents there, to which György Kurtág and György Ligeti had drawn attention. In Spring 2005, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung (E.v.S. Music Foundation) responded with a generous sum to an application that the Wissenschaftskolleg and three friendly institutions - the Fokus Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems, the New Europe College Bucharest, and the Austrian Audiovisual Research Archive of the Austrian Academy of Sciences - had written to this end. This permitted initial concrete steps to be taken toward digitalizing the Romanian folk music archive: acquiring the necessary equipment, setting up the apparatus and software, creating aids for information, training, technical transmission, and documentation. At the same time, Germany's Federal Ministry for Education and Research made a grant to the Wissenschaftskolleg to prepare a larger project for submission to the European Union. As a result, the Wissenschaftskolleg submitted the research plan ethnoArc, which was favorably evaluated and accepted for funding.

For two years, starting September 2006, the Wissenschaftskolleg will coordinate a consortium including six other institutes from four different countries:

  • Fokus Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems, Berlin
  • Institute for Ethnography and Folklore "Constantin Brailoiu", Bucharest
  • Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire, Geneva
  • Museum of Ethnology - Department of Ethnomusicology/Phonogram Archive, Berlin
  • Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
  • New Europe College - Fundatia Noua Europa, Bucharest

Along with the crucial software developer (1), four archives (2-5) and a multidisciplinary research center (6) are taking part. The total expenses for the plan are estimated at about 1.2 million Euros; the EU will bear 706,000 Euros of this.

The concrete goal of ethnoArc is to set up a common access portal for the four archives, so that in the future researchers can use the Internet to check the holdings - insofar as they are digitalized or categorized - without having to familiarize themselves with the character of the specific database systems. Creating such an association system is a substantial challenge not only for software development, but also for ethnomusicology and archive science: various systems of order in various languages have to be coordinated for correspondences and common categories. The discussion process thereby launched will also have the effect that the ethnographic collections gain a new viewpoint and can situate their activities in European contexts. Of special interest is that there are historical links between the participating partners' folk music collections, but these have as yet rarely led to concrete working connections.

It is also hoped that ethnoArc or its results - improved accessibility to folk music sources - will make the public more aware of this cultural heritage, allowing researchers as well as artists and cultural workers to use and accentuate it better.

(April 2006)