Music Archive at Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Our first work day at la Biblioteca Nacional actually started with a tour of the Music Archive. After lunch and some coffee, our kind hosts brought us to the the Archivo de Música, where Cecilia Astudillo, the Music Archivist, showed us some highlights of the collection.

The Music Archive at the Biblioteca collects the national music in many forms, including piano rolls dating from the turn of the 20th century to the 1930s. We were able to experience Cecilia playing a joyous piece on the pianola. For those who don’t know, a piano roll is made of a piece of paper perforated in a way that the device can read the notes. The piano is “played” by way of foot pedals that must be pumped in a very particular way to both keep tempo and get the pianola to work at all. This was a feat, as many of us tried and failed to strike a note. Cecilia makes it look easy.

We learned that, In addition to being a novel form of entertainment, piano rolls hold more than just notation of a composition. They also include a record of a musician’s unique performance, and were often created by famous and accomplished musicians whose work wasn’t recorded by other means.

After the Archivo de Música, we met to discuss our work and start setting up. We’ve got 3 teams, divided by collection and by task. Claudia Arrizaga of the University of Concepción brought us a collection of 16mm films, and the Biblioteca has two collections. The Dominguez Collection, consisting of eight 9.5mm films, from the son of Manual Dominguez Cerda, who was a pioneer in the Chilean film industry, and the Hochhäusler Collection, consisting of 8mm films belonging to Ignacio Hochhäusler Silverberger one of the most famous professional photographers in Chile.


(Pamela, Julio, and Lorena unpacking our haul of supplies)

We will be inspecting these films, collecting metadata about the condition, format, and contents, and preparing them for digitization. To digitize, ”Team T” is building a telecine.

We’re lucky to have a great space to work in the library. We’ve got some nice spacious tables and lots of light in the conservation, restoration, and microfilm lab. We’re also impressed with the work being done in the lab, as we were shown a beautiful restored volume, as well as the workflows for conserving and restoring documents.


After some initial set-up, we’re eager to get started!



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