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Concert Programmes database

The Concert Programmes database provides access to a vital source of information about musical life from the eighteenth-century to the present day.

This online database of holdings of concert programmes held in libraries, archives and museums in the UK and Ireland was created as a collaborative project, with Cardiff as the lead institution, was funded by the AHRC Resource Enhancement Scheme.

The database is intended as a guide to finding programme collections, rather than providing full details of the content of individual programmes. Extensive institutional coverage includes the British Library, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Bodleian Library, Oxford and the national libraries of Scotland and Ireland, as well as repositories in Aldeburgh, Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester.

The Concert programmes project was led by Professor John Tyrrell (Cardiff) with Dr Paul Banks (RCM), Dr Rupert Ridgewell (British Library) and Ms Deborah Lee (RCM). The database has been built using the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council's Collection Description Service.

Each collection of programmes covered by the project has been described and indexed with reference to geographical coverage and concert venues, time periods, subjects, and names of performers, concert venues, ensembles, promoters, and collectors.  Information that was once largely hidden – and therefore significantly underused – is now available to performers, musicologists, local, economic, social, cultural and theatre historians, music librarians, and even family history enthusiasts.

As a measure of its success, between July 2008 and July 2012, the database was accessed by more than 86,000 users in 160 countries (or territories) worldwide.

The project has unearthed programme material dating from 1690 to the present day, with the majority of records inevitably relating to material from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Many collections have been arranged, catalogued and made available to the public for the first time during the course of the project. Bringing this material to light has benefitted a range of users, including Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra archivist, Helge Grunewald, who used the database to locate c.70 BPO concert programmes that were previously unknown to her.