CATICAT online: musical instruments in Catalonia, within everyone’s reach
The CATICAT project (Catalog of Instruments of Catalonia) began in 2001 led by the Museu de la Música, with the aim of locating, inventing and documenting all the public collections of musical instruments in the country. In that first phase, 17 institutions from all over Catalonia were identified with collections of instruments, both publicly and privately owned but always open to the public. The technical team of the Museu de la Música traveled to the 17 museums to access, photograph and document more than 1,500 instruments. The results of these search campaigns were a database in Microsoft Access format, with about twenty fields describing the name of the object, the dimensions, the authorship, the place, the inscriptions, the organological classification and more.
The next two decades have been dizzying: digitization has made it possible to have massive and almost unlimited access to information about collections, works of art and heritage in general around the world. Today, if you don't have an online catalog, you don't exist. In addition to the catalogs of each institution, many digital collective heritage enhancement initiatives have emerged, such as Europeana, which, in addition to facilitating access to millions of digitized heritage objects, allows their reuse. In addition, heritage institutions have developed standards and guidelines for cataloging works of art and for the digital images that identify them.
Given this context, it was clear that the CATICAT project needed revision, updating and development, as well as, and above all, a website that would allow the results to be published online. Thanks to the support of the Department of Culture, which made an extraordinary contribution to the Centre Robert Gerhard per la Promoció i Difusió del Patrimoni Musical Català, in 2020 we were able to resume the project to complete and expand the information collected in the first stage and publish- on a specific website, which allows you to jointly consult a large number of collections of musical instruments in Catalonia.
This project is inspired by initiatives such as the British MINIM, led by Royal College of Music of London, or the French Base Nationale des Instruments de Musique by Philharmonie of Paris. The Museu de la Música has been collaborating with these institutions for some time, with whom shares the international database MIMO (Musical Instruments Museums Online). CATICAT, therefore, wants to be the national platform for the dissemination of Catalan musical heritage, specifically of instruments, at the level of the main European national collections.
These have been the steps followed:
- Identification of public collections or collections opened to the public in Catalonia that contain musical instruments. In addition to the 17 museums that participated in the 2000s, we did a general survey to discover more, about a total of fifty.
- Database contracting and web interface design. In parallel with the prospecting of collections, we weighed several options for managing the documentary data and photographs of the different collections involved. The best option was Coeli Platform, a cloud-based tool for managing asset collections. Together with the teams of Coeli and Edittio we designed the collection management application and also the skeleton of the future website.
- Contacts and preparatory meetings. All localized museums were sent a letter inviting them to participate, and throughout 2021 the Museu de la Música team met with technicians and management of interested museums to determine the scope. of the project to each institution, the needs and commitments of each party and the calendar of documentation and photography campaigns. Due to restrictions on Covid-19, contacts and meetings were always in telematic format.
- Formalizations of terms and conditions. Participating museums must sign a three-year membership document in accordance with the terms and conditions approved by the Consorci de L’Auditori i l’Orquestra, which are as follows::
Commitments from the Museu de la Música-Centre Robert Gerhard
Commitments of the participating museums
- Definition of criteria and classification. Many decisions had to be made to unify terminology and criteria. For example, accessories such as drumsticks, bows, or gramophone horns have been included in the database because they are essential to the operation of the instrument. Others, such as lecterns or cases, are in the database but are not published. In terms of groupings, Coeli’s ‘Sets of Objects’ field allows us to group the instruments of all museums so that on the web it is easy and intuitive to explore the collections according to the physical or organological characteristics of the instrument. Thus, we can search or explore for aerophones, electrophones, keyboards, programmed instruments, etc.
- Carrying out photography and documentation campaigns. We divided the photo sessions according to the geographical area where the museums were located. Between 4 and 7 photographs were taken per piece, including details, marks and labels, with a gray background and in TIFF and JPG format. Based on these images, the documentalist documented each instrument in the database, in a specific work environment for CATICAT and based on the information provided by each museum and the image in JPG, which is the one that is uploaded. and Coeli. In general, all the mandatory fields have been reported in accordance with Decret 35/1992 on the implementation of the Museums Act, although not all of them have been published (the entry or origin data have been left unpublished, example).
- Synchronization with thel Museu de la Música. The Museu de la Música’s online catalog is also based on Coeli, and all data is periodically synchronized between the collection management software (Museumplus RIA) and the Museum's Coeli. For CATICAT we have done the same: automatically synchronize the data of the Coeli-Museum with the Coeli-CATICAT, so that it is not necessary to enter the almost 3000 instruments one by one.
- Data review and debugging. Everything we explained in the previous points seems very easy, fast, and automatic: it’s what documentalists, registrars and collection managers know as ‘the big trick’. Since we already know this, once all the files had been entered, we carried out a thorough process of reviewing and validating the data, to detect and correct synchronization problems, lack of data or inconsistencies. For example, in the synchronization of the data of the Museu de la Música there were about 300 missing instruments that do not appear in the Coeli. The reason: these are the pieces that are not the property of the Museum, but loans on loan. We also came across hundreds of pieces that were in the database but were not visible on the web. The reason: by mistake, they were marked as 'unpublished'.
- Web design and browsing review. The process of creating and revising the website has been carried out in parallel with the documentation process. The Consorci de L’Auditori i l’Orquestra registered the caticat.cat domain at the beginning of 2021, and Edittio developed the website with periodic reviews by the Museum team. In the final section, it was necessary to check that all the data from Coeli appeared correctly and that there were no navigation problems. We also collected photographs from all participating museums, informative texts about the project, and corporate information.
Once the relevant revisions have been made, CATICAT’s web was released in beta on May 3, and several improvements are already underway to make navigation more intuitive, expand information on participating museums, and include narrative content that highlights the instruments of different museums.
Today, we can find musical instruments in the collections of 17 Catalan museums:
- Museu de la Música de Barcelona
- Museu Nacional de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (Terrassa)
- Museu de Mataró
- Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
- Museu Romàntic Can Papiol (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
- Museu de Maricel (Sitges)
- Museu del Cau Ferrat (Sitges)
- Museu Romàntic (Sitges)
- Masia d’en Cabanyes (Vilanova i la Geltrú)
- Museu Pau Casals (El Vendrell)
- Museu Frederic Marès (Barcelona)
- Museu Palau Mercader (Cornellà de Llobregat)
- Museu de Manresa
- Museu del Joguet de Catalunya (Figueres)
- Museu Etnogràfic de Ripoll
- Museu Darder – Espai d’Interpretació de l’Estany (Banyoles)
- Museu Arqueològic Comarcal (Banyoles)
During 2022, a new photography and documentation campaign is planned in several museums that have joined the project, such as the Museu de Tortosa, the Museu Etnogràfic de Ripoll, the Museu del Cinema-Col·lecció Tomàs Mallol in Girona, the Museu Etnològic del Montseny-La Gabella, the Tresor de la Catedral de Girona, the museu Diocesà Comarcal de Solsona or the Museu de la Noguera. Apart from these, other institutions in Girona, Lleida and Tarragona are in the process of joining. We hope, therefore, to bring together in a single access point all the musical instruments in public collections in Catalonia, and to make visible a heritage that is often little known and studied.