The Library of Congress Is Digitizing Its Braille Music Collection

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The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at the Library of Congress houses the largest braille music collection on earth. The institution’s inventory of over 30,000 musical transcriptions cover a variety of genres, all written in the raised dot system invented by Louis Braille. It's the only collection in the NLS that hasn’t been fully digitized, and now there’s a massive project underway to change that, Hyperallergic reports.

Digitizing braille requires more effort than simply scanning a page into a computer. Before a DotScan scanner equipped with optical braille recognition makes the digital copy, the spaces separating the dots must be measured for accuracy. An archivist then has to look over each digital copy for errors and input corrections into the computer manually. A well-maintained 100-page music book can take as little as six hours to scan and proofread, but a manuscript with significant wear-and-tear can take five times as long.

Librarian Donna Koh wrote for the Library of Congress, “There could be a few cells here and there that have to be filled in or there could be 4-5 lines, page after page that require manual corrections[…]Now you understand why our emotional well-being can directly be tied to how the scan comes out.”

The digitization process is part of the Library of Congress’s business continuity plan to ensure that its contents are backed up in case of a major catastrophe. So far 116 books (or about 8000 pages) of braille music have been uploaded and are accessible through the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) site.

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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