The "Music of Social Change" project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, uses the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI protocol) to integrate resources that are held in different record formats at various institutions into a single searchable system. This system provides researchers with meta-information: useful information about scholarly information and special collections held by archives, libraries, museums, and other repositories in a targeted subject area, that of music and the African American Freedom Struggle.
In this project, Emory University is collaborating with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Highlander Research and Education Center, and other museums and libraries to increase public access to primary source materials.
This project addresses a major obstacle that stands between researchers and the information they seek. Cataloging records and accession lists about unique archival materials at different institutions are written up in a wide variety of formats and are stored in a wide variety of non-interoperable database structures and systems. This has yielded a kind of "Babel Tower" in which it is nearly impossible to search for materials across institutional boundaries even on the Internet. Instead, researchers have to visit each individual institutional site in order to discover valuable archival resources.
To address this problem, the Music of Social Change project has created an open source software package that allows cataloguers to map or crosswalk database records from different museums and libraries into Dublin Core, a common format. This allows the collections to be searched from a central Open Archives Initiative (OAI) database system that is freely available on the Internet - thereby allowing researchers to discover resources more quickly and efficiently.
The Music of Social Change project is part of the MetaScholar Initiative at Emory University. This Initiative is creating new models for sharing meta-information and portal services for scholars in focused research areas.