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CASSGB magazine archive update

CASSGB magazine archive update

This article was posted on 11 Jun 2022.

In 2019, the CASSGB board of directors received an email asking if we had considered creating a complete, digital archive of all issues of Clarinet & Saxophone. If not, would we be prepared to make the move and digitise the collection, also making it searchable and available to researchers? And if so, the writer would be happy to contribute funds towards such a project.

With many resources moving online, we were becoming wary of relying entirely on the few complete sets of physical magazines known to exist, with just two or three members and in the CASSGB library. We had occasionally received academic requests, usually for a specific article on a player or piece, and if the enquirer knew the volume and issue number this was a fairly straightforward task. However, in some cases, it required trawling through a few issues to find the information requested. Most memorable was a request to find out the advertising history of a particular brand of reed!

Several other CASSGB members who work in academia had also started to call for the magazine archive to be made digital. With early plans in place to upgrade the CASSGB website, having a searchable magazine archive then became a key part of the project, offering an extra level of service to members.

Berdel Efe Gulsen led the project, and in order to investigate what options were available, we needed to work out how many pages had to be scanned as well as paper sizes and whether they were printed in colour or black or white. We spent a pleasant day in the CASSGB library at Stapleford Granary going through the magazines, issue by issue, page by page, cataloguing magazine lengths, sizes and colours. We also had to select the most suitable spare copy of each issue to be sent off and check that we had at least one copy, preferably two, to remain in the library. After this session we realised we were short of a few copies, so a request went out in the next magazine and also CASSGB e-newsletter. Within a few weeks, issues had arrived from Fiona Benjamin, Bernard Hunt and David Smith, with many thanks to them.

In 2020, quotes for the whole scanning process were duly obtained, and Pearl Scan in Manchester was selected and approved by the board. The process involved guillotining each issue, scanning at 300 dpi high resolution and OCR processing to ensure the text was searchable. Each issue would then be given a digital file name with the title, date and volume number. With the whole process confirmed, the chosen magazines were organised in order ready for scanning, and three large, heavy boxes were couriered off in March 2021.

As part of the project, our current Clarinet & Saxophone editor, Michael Pearce, wanted to reprint some of the interesting stories from earlier magazines in a ‘From the archives’ series to run throughout 2021 (Volume 46). In reading issues from the 1970s and early 80s, a battle to get the saxophone recognised by exam boards and university courses shone out. We contacted Colin Cowles, editor from 1978 to 1980 (and again between 1985 and 1987), who agreed that we could reprint his editorial, with the results of the campaign reprinted in the following issue. Other features included an article from 1993 on the first female saxophonists permitted to enter the RAF Central Band, and an entertaining report from Andrew Simon on his trip to perform in North Korea, published in 1994.

In the meantime, Berdel was sent sample issues from the scanners to check, and just a few weeks later, an email with a link to the digitised archive arrived. Those with access were then able to try out the archive and check that the search functions worked, with positive results as expected.

It is quite amazing that two shelves of paper can be reduced to a small bit of plastic and a microchip, and after the eff ort of going through the archive, reliving some of the earlier issues and seeing three large boxes of magazines off with the courier, the digital return and completion lacked ceremony. However, what we do have is an important development that will form part of the new website to take CASSGB into the future.

Stephanie Reeve
CASSGB Librarian

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) cassgb.org. Tel: 01642 769 558

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