9.1 The Library comprehensively collects music and music-related materials that form part of the documentary record of Australian culture, as part of the Library’s national heritage responsibilities. Collecting includes published and unpublished music, personal and organisational papers, archival sound recordings of folklore, oral histories, pictures and ephemera documenting compositional and performance history, as well as materials that support research and study of music.

9.2 The aim is to provide access to music and music-related information for all Australians, as well as to meet the specific needs of the musical and research communities.


9.3 ‘Australian music’ is defined as music created by Australians, or published in Australia, or associated with Australia by explicit Australian performance or subject reference. ‘Creators’ encompass composers, authors, librettists, arrangers, transcribers, editors, performers and illustrators who have musical, intellectual or textual responsibility. ‘Australian creators’ include those who were born or who have resided permanently in Australia, or who have continued to be recognised as Australian although residence in Australia has not been continuous, or who have been identified through work in Australia as Australian.

9.4 ‘Printed music’ includes all types of ‘notated music’ published in scores, parts, anthologies, commentaries published with printed music, song and hymn books, as well as music represented by other media when such media forms an integral component of a notated music publication. ‘Notated music’ may appear in the following formats: print, facsimile, electronic (online, multimedia and digital), microform, braille, as well as in unpublished forms.

9.5 The Library collects books and serials related to music, primary source music collections and music information in accordance with the collection policy for print material.

9.6 The Library collects original materials related to music in any other format, e.g. pictures, ephemera, manuscript and oral history, in accordance with the collection policy for original materials.

9.7 The Library archives Australian music websites and digital music files and electronic publications as part of its ongoing commitment to archiving and preserving Australian content in electronic form, in accordance with the collection policy for electronic publishing.

9.8 The Library collects archival sound and audiovisual recordings with supporting textual material but does not actively collect commercially distributed sound or audiovisual recordings, except where these form part of a musician’s personal archive.

Collecting: Australian

9.9 The Library has the largest research collection of music in Australia. Its strengths are in retrospective and contemporary Australiana, including sheet music, published and unpublished scores, and archival sound recordings of folk song and dance traditions in Australia.

9.10 In addition to the acquisition of individual published musical works, the Library holds and acquires major formed music collections. Formed music collections, which may contain both Australian and overseas music, are collected where they exemplify and reveal Australian musical creativity or the broader relationship of music to Australian culture, including music performance history. In some cases, formed collections may remain open for further material to be added by the collector if the collector continues to collect material for inclusion in the formed collection.

9.11 Extensive personal papers and music manuscripts of Australia’s most significant composers and internationally or nationally recognised musical performers, scholars, critics and entrepreneurs are also actively collected by the Library’s Manuscript Section. These collections include a wide range of correspondence, diaries, ephemera, personal papers and music sketches and autographs, as well as archival and published sound and audiovisual recordings where these represent an integral part of the musician’s creative life. Other manuscript collections document the history of musical organisations and musical life in Australia. Pictures, portraits, programs, posters, tickets and other materials, held in the Prompt and pictures collections, document the history of Australian music, musicians and musical culture. Archival sound recordings and oral histories are collected to document the intangible musical heritage of Australia across a range of musical traditions, including folklore and vernacular music.

Australian Published Music

9.12 All types and styles of Australian printed music are collected: e.g. popular, classical, folk, church, dance, educational, film, children’s, multicultural, Indigenous, jazz, band, instrumental, vocal and choral, theoretical and didactic, electronic.

9.13 Music published in Australia is subject to legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. In addition to the copy deposited under the legal deposit provisions, the Library normally acquires a second copy of current Australian printed music, except for music published in Australia under licence from an overseas publisher, with no Australian association otherwise. The Library actively seeks to acquire one copy of retrospective music items to fill gaps in the existing music collection. One copy of current Australian musical works, published in facsimile score by the Australian Music Centre (AMC) under licence with Australian composers, is acquired primarily for the purposes of research and preservation.

9.14 Music published outside Australia that has an Australian association is also actively sought. This normally includes two copies of:

  • music by Australian creators published overseas;
  • music published overseas that is illustrated by Australian artists;
  • music that has been performed by an Australian where the association of the performer to the music is stated explicitly on the publication, or where the musician is significantly represented elsewhere in the Library’s collections.

One copy is sought of music that is published overseas and which contains no evidence of Australian content but is distributed in Australia by Australian agents.

Australian Digital Music

9.15 Digital music files are being both produced and collected by the Library, in response to changing modes of publishing, archiving and disseminating music. The Library’s development of its digital music collection aims to make available digital copies of Australian music held in the Library’s own music and related collections and to support the cooperative digitisation and delivery of items by other Australian institutions.

9.16 The Library also seeks to collect Australian ‘digital music publications’ which are collected in accordance with the Australian printed music selection criteria and definitions. These include:

  • digital music scores made available as digital music files on the Web, on disk or in equivalent or emerging formats. This does not refer to additional media or electronic components that are included as part of a notated music work that has been published as a printed score and/or parts set;
  • music websites, where these meet the PANDORA selection criteria.

9.17 Mixed media publications, which combine components of music in both printed and electronic forms, are actively collected (normally two copies), and the electronic component will be digitally preserved where possible. In cases where printed and electronic equivalents are available, both forms are collected.

Music Oral History and Folklore

9.18 Oral histories are recorded where they focus upon Australian composers and performers, music scholars, entrepreneurs or directors who have achieved distinction in the composition and performance of music, in Australia or overseas, or who have contributed significantly to the development of musical life or scholarship in Australia.

9.19 The Library supports an active field and studio archival sound recording program, collecting folk/vernacular music and dance traditions in Australia that often survive with few forms of written documentation. These archival sound recordings aim to capture the breadth and diversity of Australia’s cultural traditions, both past and present, Indigenous and immigrant. They preserve forms of songs and dances handed down and transformed within diverse community settings and also document the social context for music making of various types. The acquisition of printed music also takes account of folklore acquisitions by collecting, where possible, notated folk music and dance sources that complement these oral traditions.

Unpublished Australian Music

9.20 Unpublished Australian music is collected either as part of the archives of Australian musicians, held in the Manuscript collection, or as special collections of Australian musical works or Australian musical organisations. When a special collection primarily contains sets of unpublished scores and parts (e.g. the Symphony Australia collection), these are acquired and managed within the music collection.

Access to the Collections

9.21 The music collection is made available primarily through the Library’s catalogue at individual item level. Some collections are currently accessible only through collection level records; in this case a finding aid or index may be created with a link to the catalogue record. Where printed music is held in manuscript or other collections, these will be identified where possible through a finding aid, with the aim of providing some access through the catalogue.

9.22 The Library is digitising some of its most important music collections, making them accessible through the Library's digital collections and services. Integrated and collaborative access to Australian music resources and information, in multiple formats, is available through MusicAustralia, a service hosted by the Library in cooperation with libraries, archives, and specialist music organisations and distributors throughout Australia.

9.23 The ephemeral nature of printed and unpublished music scores and parts, their often unique or irreplaceable value and the fragile physical condition of some items means that their use and handling generally requires conditions that best ensure long-term survival and accessibility. These materials are made available for use under supervision through the Petherick Reading Room. Provided there are no preservation risks or copyright restrictions, copies of music can be made for readers within the Library or from offsite. Copies are also lent to other libraries. Original materials normally remain within the Library at all times, except where lent for exhibition or special purposes.

9.24 Archival sound recordings can also be listened to within the Petherick Reading Room and a keyboard and computer with music notation software is available to users. Increasingly, the delivery of sound via the web imposes additional requirements on service delivery, including access to speakers/headphones in the reading rooms. Digital delivery of selected Library audio materials is in development.

Relations with other Institutions

9.25 The policies and activities of other collecting institutions, particularly other national cultural institutions, the Australian Music Centre, state and specialist music libraries, all have a bearing on the Library's collecting priorities and procedures in relation to music.

9.26 The Library’s role in acquiring published and unpublished notated music is complemented by the National Film and Sound Archive whose Recorded Sound Strategy aims to collect, preserve and provide access to published recordings and associated historical documentation representing the output of Australia’s diverse recorded sound and radio industries. The National Film and Sound Archive also has particular collection strategies in relation to jazz, Indigenous music, music performance history and convergent audiovisual technologies, and the Library takes account of this when acquiring music, oral history, pictorial, ephemera and manuscript collections related to these areas.

9.27 In relation to sound recordings of folk or traditional music, the Library focuses upon its archival sound recording program rather than published recordings. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is the principal repository for field or community recordings of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music.

9.28 The Library is also working in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive to develop mechanisms for integrated discovery access to music resources across multiple formats and to share information about approaches, standards and procedures related to the preservation and delivery of music and audiovisual objects in the digital environment.

9.29 The Library works in close cooperation with the Australian Music Centre (AMC) whose main role is to facilitate and encourage the performance and understanding of music by Australian composers. The Centre reproduces on demand Australian musical works, in performance scores and parts, by a licensing agreement with represented Australian composers. The Library actively acquires Australian Music Centre published material for the purpose of preservation and research, but by agreement refers users to the AMC for lending and performance use of musical items. The Library is also working with the AMC to establish guidelines and methods for collecting, archiving and delivering music scores produced or reproduced in digital form.

9.30 Some state, public and university libraries have specialist music or performing arts sections or branches, whose role is to support musical performance, as well as the research and study of music and public access to music resources in a range of formats. The Library does not duplicate this role of servicing musical performance in the community through the provision of sets and parts, except where it assists through archiving and providing access to unique materials that document creative and performance history in Australia, through agreement with such organisations as Symphony Australia. The library also supports cooperative planning and resource sharing in music by providing a leadership role and specialist curatorial expertise in music, including cooperative strategies for developing and maintaining digital collections.

9.31 Some institutions also have strong interest in acquiring music and original musical materials relating to the creation and performance of Australian music in their region, city or special areas of interest. There is also sometimes overlap between these institutions and performing arts archives. When seeking to acquire a special collection, the Library takes into account the likely research value of particular collections and the collecting interests of other Australian libraries and archives, giving consideration to collection strengths and the need to maintain the integrity of collections.