The SOM has one of the largest collections of sheet music in Europe, approximately 800.000 titles.

Because of budget cuts, the library was closed in 2013, so since then the collection is no longer available for the public. Only the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra (RFO) and the Netherlands Radio Choir, which are part of SOM, are allowed to use the collection.

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The collection contains a large component of classical compositions, but popular music is also part of the collection. The most valuable art, from a heritage point of view, is the collection with sheet music, music composed and arranged for the public broadcasting companies from the start of the radio- (since 1920) and television (since 1950) broadcasting until 1980. From 1920 until 1980 live music especifically composed and arranged for the broadcasted show was performed during broadcasts by ensembles which were connected to the various broadcasting companies. This is unique, handwritten and unpublished material. In the height of this period, approximately 1000 ensembles were active in performing this music. This part of the collection, the broadcast collection, contains over 200.000 titles.

From a heritage point of view, this collection is too valuable to remain buried in the basements of the ‘Muziekcentrum van de Omroep’ (SOM’s home). Everyone concerned with and interested in the collection, the Dutch government, the broadcasting companies, professional- and amateur musicians and researchers agreed that effort should be put in disclosing this particular part of the collection.

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For this reason SOM has started the project in 2017 to make the collection available again by digitization. The first decision was to focus on the unique material, the broadcasting collection. The main goal of the project was to reach an as broad as possible audience. Therefore we decided to follow the national strategy for digital heritage, defined by DEN. We decided to use the Linked Open Data principles as basics for our project. The project contains several parts:

  • We had to make the metadata available in our catalogue, so we digitized 170.000 catalogue-cards and added it to the catalogue. We now know what we have!
  • We made a selection of the broadcast material for digitization, so only the scores of the most (heritage) valuable works, and digitized it. As this moment, approximately 20.000 works have been digitized. In 2019 we will end up with 50.000. This target number is set based on the financial facilities we have, not on the size of the collection.
  • To be able to connect this meta-data later to other collections, we decided to publish the meta-data as Linked Open Data. A big challenge, due to the lack of a good ontology for sheet music. We are discussing the connectivity with the ‘Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid’ (, which is the archive for the recordings of the broadcasts, and ‘Muziekweb’, the national music library.
  • A website in which the catalogue is presented in a user friendly way is the finishing touch of the project. The first version of this has been achieved 1-3-2018, and we will continue working on improvements.
  • The rights of the material are not clearly defined. For this reason, we have created several agreements with composers, publishers and the broadcasting companies.
  • The first pages of the digitized works can be seen by everyone, to be able to see more than three pages or download compositions, you need to become a member of Muziekschatten. In this way we can track the use of the material, which is necessary from a legal perspective.
  • We also want to make this material more known to the public. Therefor we are creating connections with other organizations (like public libraries). Furthermore we organize and stimulate several performances of material from our collection. In 2018, close harmony group Frommermann ( performed a program about several valuable pieces from the old archives. We have been invited by some television and radio shows and we organized several concerts by the RFO.

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