History and Development

Beethoven Gateway: History and Future

One of the primary objectives of the Beethoven Center, from the time it opened in 1985, was the development of a comprehensive online bibliography for Beethoven. The main source for the project was the Center’s rapidly growing collection of books, early printed scores, and journal articles. Supplementing these sources was information compiled from bibliographies and catalog records from other libraries and databases. Among these was a large file of library catalog records for Beethoven books and articles compiled by the defunct Michigan Beethoven Society. Projects that reviewed the accuracy and level of description in these catalogs and bibliographies led to the development of a plan for collecting and analyzing bibliographic data. Two fundamental decisions regarding the plan of work emerged from these surveys:

  1. all bibliographic and subject data would be determined by first hand examination of the literature;
  2. a controlled vocabulary of specialized subject terms derived from the Beethoven literature would be created. To assist with the development of a Beethoven vocabulary, Dr. Elaine Svenonius, an expert on thesaurus construction at UCLA, was hired as a consultant.

In October 1990, the Beethoven Bibliography Database project officially began with a grant from the California State Library for online cataloging of the Center’s collection. Database design was the next step the following year. At that time, options for producing Internet-based bibliographic databases were limited. Among the possibilities explored were using commercial vendors such as Dialog or consortia such as the Research Libraries Group for database design and access. These options were rejected due to the expense involved and inflexibility of these databases and their creators. Instead, the Center and the university library negotiated with Innovative Interfaces, a leading developer of library catalog systems, to create a specialized reference database. The Beethoven Gateway first became available in 1993 through the Telnet protocol and was then upgraded to a web interface when that became the norm for library catalogs.

From 1993 to the present, development of the database has been made possible through a series of grants and private donations, beginning with an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Much progress was made from 1996-2000 thanks to funding by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Among the major milestones during that period were the publication of the first edition Beethoven Bibliography Database User’s Guide and Thesaurus (now available online) and the development of an indexing manual. In 2003, the university library signed a new contract with Innovative Interfaces that upgraded the online catalog to their powerful Millennium software. Under this contract, the Beethoven Center completed a significant redesign of the search interface for the database at no additional cost.

With the downturn of the national economy in 2000, the Packard Foundation had to greatly reduce grants to humanities projects. Since then, lacking major funding, the Center continued the project on a minimal level with the help of volunteers. By June 2008, the database included approximately16,500 bibliographic records for books, articles, and dissertations about Beethoven, as well as published manuscript sources, first and early editions of Beethoven’s music, and original manuscripts located in the United States. Some of these records need to be enhanced and another 3,500 references remain to be added.

In 2009, the project name changed from Beethoven Bibliography Database to Beethoven Gateway, to better reflect its function as a portal to information on Beethoven. Once the goal of 20,000 bibliographic records is reached, the Beethoven Gateway will contain fully indexed records for all core Beethoven literature from music publications as well as more obscure research publications from music and other fields and selected manuscript sources.  It will become a truly comprehensive bibliography, providing a gateway to the full range of intellectual inquiry and exploration of Beethoven’s creativity and its global impact on music and non-music fields. The Beethoven Gateway will then eliminate the need to use other bibliographic tools to identify Beethoven literature on both broad and narrowly focused topics.

The Beethoven Center will continue to maintain the database, adding new publications as they appear, and providing access to other formats of materials. Already underway is a project to include the sound recordings, videos, and art materials in the Beethoven Center's collection. When possible, the Beethoven Gateway will provide links to full text of books and articles as they become freely available on the web.