Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry: Cataloging the Collection

The Berliner Collection presented a cataloging challenge because it contained such a variety of materials: correspondence, notes, photographs, books, sound recordings, newspaper clippings, and artifacts. The goal for the catalogers was to provide as much standard bibliographic information as possible for these diverse items and formats. An Access database was created, with a custom form composed of fields based upon existing MARC fields, such as: Title (245), Author (100), Place and Date of Publication and Publisher (260), and Notes (500). In addition, each item was assigned a unique Digital ID Number in the equivalent of an 856 field.

Most of the materials in the Emile Berliner Collection were cataloged at the item level (individually). At fewer than 1000 items, the collection was relatively small. An effort was made to include as much information about each object as could be discerned.

There were, however, a few items in the collection that were not cataloged with the same level of detail. These include several scrapbooks that were (apparently) compiled by Berliner himself. These scrapbooks in general contain materials grouped around some of the issues Berliner was most interested in, including: public health and pasteurization, developments in new technologies, Zionism, and materials of general (historical or personal) interest. The decision was made to create a catalog record for the scrapbook as a whole and not for each of its constituent parts. The items within the scrapbooks do not have individual catalog records, but they are available to the user by means of a page-turner, a digital tool that enables materials to be flipped through one by one, like the pages of a book. Another page-turner has been provided for the folder of materials scanned from the Joseph Sanders Collection. This includes an exchange of letters from the mid-1950s, which the user can flip through as if leafing through the actual folder.

The Series

The analog (physical) materials in the Berliner Collection have been housed by series in folders and boxes according to format in most cases. The series are numbered as follows:

01 Addresses
02 Articles
03 Artifacts
04 Books
05 Catalogs
06 Correspondence
07 Diary
08 Miscellaneous
09 Notes and Papers
10 Pamphlets
11 Patents
12 Photographs
13 Recordings
14 Scrapbooks
15 Sanders Collection

Sound Recordings

The Berliner sound recordings were the only materials in the Berliner Collection that had previously been cataloged by the Library of Congress's Recorded Sound Section. For the sake of interoperability, the data from these records were copied into the Access database for the Web collection. The sound recordings were assigned digital ID numbers based upon their original call numbers, which were based in turn upon the numbers by which they were identified in the Berliner Gramophone Company's own sales catalogs.

The Berliner discs are housed separately from the Berliner manuscript materials. Digitizing these materials has provided an opportunity to bring them together with related materials for presentation.

Overview of Fields Used in Berliner Cataloging Records:

CREATED/PUBLISHED. The date refers to the year(s) when the item was created. The place of publication and publisher or creator is noted when known.

DIGITAL ID. The persistent location information for the digital file. A digital ID number was created for each item cataloged. Each item's unique identification number is based upon the series to which it has been assigned. In the cases where multiple copies of items existed, each copy was given its own digital item number, and the cataloging record was copied and adapted to reflect variations in its condition. For example:

Example 1:

The document: The Gramophone: etching the human voice, has been assigned ID number <01010101> or (berl\01010101):

Series: 01 ("Addresses")

Box: 01

Folder: 01

Item: 01

= Item ID 01010101

Example 2:

[Letter] from Emile Berliner to Edgar Berliner, 1922 April 4 was assigned the ID Number: 06010415

Series: 06 ("Correspondence")

Box: 01

Folder: 04

Item: 15

= Item ID 06010415

Berliner Recordings have been assigned Digital ID Numbers starting with the prefix 13 (series: Recordings), but these ID numbers are primarily based upon their original Berliner catalog numbers.

For example: The Berliner recording Never Did the Same Thing Twice, performed by Dan Quinn, was assigned Digital Image ID Number 131731Z, based upon its original Berliner Catalog Number: 1731 Z.

MEDIUM. Describes the physical properties of the original work. The description is also a reminder that the physical characteristics of the original work are quite different from its digital reproduction through a computer.

NOTES. Many types of notes are written to explain sources of devised dates and titles and other pertinent information. A summary description is sometimes written if a title is not self-explanatory.

SUBJECTS. For this collection, the catalogers have attempted to assign basic Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to facilitate searchability and access to materials. "Phonograph" and "Telephone," "Microphone" and "Public Health" are all headings that were frequently applied in the catalog records, and are therefore productive search terms.

TITLE. A title is transcribed from the original item. If the item carries no caption, a title is devised from another source and displayed in brackets. Devised titles are written by Library staff.

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