This Sunday afternoon the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections participated in a celebration marking the official launch of the John Arpin Archives and Sheet Music Collection and the naming of a practice room in the Music Department in Accolade East (Room 245 to be precise) after the late composer, collector and producer John Arpin.
Dr. Mary Jane Esplen donated her late husband’s archives and extensive collection of historical sheet music earlier in 2011. Arpin’s collection of historical sheet music includes over 140,000 items of music. Thanks to a Young Canada Works grant, the archives was able to hire a metadata assistant, Alana Lebkovich, who assisted librarians and archivists in Archives & Special Collections and Bibliographic Services in the cataloguing and description of individual pieces of music.
Drawing on previous standards developed by the Sheet Music Consortium in the United States, these records not only include information regarding the title, composer and arranger of the piece, but also additional data relating to the subject of the song, its key and tempo, any engravers and illustrators of the often elaborate cover art, and the dealer stamps of firms that published and sold these pieces of early 20th century pop culture.
It is hoped that this additional information will assist researchers and musicologists identify and locate specific works and also develop our understanding of the cultural role of popular sheet music in the twentieth century. A highly consumable genre of popular culture, sheet music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made music accessible to a growing gentile class who could afford a household piano to entertain family and friends.
Below are a selection of some cover illustrations of some items in the Arpin Collection which are now in the public domain. Other digitized items from the Arpin Collection can be found in YorkSpace as part of the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections’ Sheet Music Collection. All items catalogued by York University Libraries’ Bibliographic Services can be found in the online catalogue by searching “JAC*” under call number. A list can be found here.