Skip to Main Content

Primary Sources for Music

Papers and Archives

What are papers and archives?

Libraries commonly use the term "papers" for collections of an individual's original documents and personal effects. "Papers" covers many formats, such as manuscripts, drafts, diaries, journals, audio and video recordings, books, and artifacts (e.g., eyeglasses, musical instruments) that belonged to the individual. Archives usually refers to the records of an organization, though there are exceptions.  “Archival” carries a different connotation, and would apply to individuals’ papers and other collections.

How do libraries catalog them?

  • The library's main catalog typically includes one record (catalog entry) describing the collection, but no records for individual items within the collection.
  • A finding aid, in paper or online, describes contents of various parts of the collection.
  • Some collections remain unprocessed and may not appear at all in the library catalog. New materials are acquired faster than staff can process them.

To find out where an individual's papers are located

  • Consult published bibliographies and research guides on the individual. E.g., Gabriel Fauré: A Guide to Research, by Edward R. Phillips, contains a chapter on primary sources.
  • Examine books and articles on the composer or topic for footnotes and text that mention sources the author consulted.
  • Try the specialized databases and websites listed in the Tools box on this page.

To get access to a collection

  • Read the catalog record and finding aid carefully to determine what restrictions may exist.
  • Before planning a visit to another library, consult Emory’s Rose Library staff for advice.
  • Remember that collections available on a website may include only selected items. Additional, non-digitized materials may be available for onsite consultation

Primary Source Databases at Emory

Tools for finding archival collections

For individual compositions, look up the work in the thematic catalog for the composer; see the Thematic Catalogs tab.

In Advanced Search, enter the person's name as a keyword or author and specify Archival Material as the Format.

Google or other web search engines
Try using the person's name along with one or more of these terms: "papers," "finding aid,"  "scope," or "scope note" (terms commonly employed in collection descriptions).

IMAPSC: International Music Archives and Primary Source Collections
This service hosted at Brigham Young University aims to be the central resource for finding archival collections related to music, but is not comprehensive at this time.

A guide to music collections in archives, libraries, and museums in the UK and Ireland.

ArchiveGrid attempts to provide a single point of entry to worldwide archival holdings. Scholars can search for and view archival and manuscript collection descriptions, locate relevant research institutions, arrange visits, or request copies from thousands of libraries, museums, and archives.

Catalog of The National Archives of the UK. Lists records pertaining to Britain and British history and held at The National Archive, at other archives and institutions across the UK, and at some archives and institutions abroad.

British Library, Search our Catalogue: Archives and Manuscripts
Search Music Archives and Manuscripts along with other collections. Some older BL catalogues may not yet have been migrated to this database.

Digital Public Library of America

Search publicly available materials from America's libraries, archives, and museums.