Meredith L. Hale, Metadata Librarian
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) is an open access database that aggregates metadata and images of instruments from over 240 museums located on three different continents. The MIMO project, funded by the European Commission, ran from 2009 to 2011, but new museums have joined as recently as 2019. In its initial project phase, the University of Edinburgh was the lead partner with 11 institutions in total participating. The project’s goal was to establish a single access point to digital content and information on musical instruments. As the site’s URL https://mimo-international.com/MIMO/ implies, the resource is “international” in scope and this fact is reinforced through features like multilingual access. Users can access the database and its metadata in 12 languages. Currently, the database shares 64,166 records of musical instruments held in public collections.
This resource has the potential to be beneficial to a wide range of users, from those interested in tracking how instrument families have changed over time to those researching the design and business of instrument making. In terms of temporal coverage, instruments described in the database were produced between 1700 and 2000. Western Europe is most strongly represented in the database, but works from Asia, Africa, South America, and North America are also present. To navigate through these resources, users can complete a keyword search, use facets, or browse lists found on three tabs on the site’s header. The tabs include “Instrument Families,” “Museums,” and “Instrument Makers.” The “Instrument Makers” tab will be particularly helpful to those researching the design and business of instrument making. Users can browse controlled terms for makers by the categories of “Persons,” “Corporations,” and “Families.”
Content found on individual records differs based on the object and standards of the contributing museum, but each record includes fields for a title, maker, creation date, creation location, instrument family, description, inscriptions, and measurements. Note that while multilingual access is highlighted, only select fields in the metadata are translated based on the language selected by the users. Those wanting to identify literature associated with particular pieces will also be pleased to see that some works include a reference tab that acts as a bibliography of the instrument. Approximately 2,000 records also include access to audio and videos that document the way a person interacts with the selected instrument and its musical range. Closer examination of this content reveals that unfortunately many of these records share broken media links. Several links out to full metadata from the providing partner are also broken (e.g. Elektronisch Instrument). While link rot over time is expected, additional quality control is needed to find and address issues like these.
In addition to users whose primary goal is to search the database’s musical content, staff in libraries, archives, and museums will also find the extensive documentation on digitization, metadata sharing, and project management invaluable. The MIMO Digitization Standard provides guidance on how to best represent musical instruments digitally, by defining mandatory and optional views for all instrument families. It also established guidelines for contributors for mapping and sharing records using the LIDO schema and OAI-PMH. The longevity and reach of MIMO are noteworthy. The project began soon after Europeana was established in 2008 and predates the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) in 2013. MIMO has shared content with Europeana from its beginning, which likely contributed to its thorough documentation of procedures and standards. Like DPLA, MIMO has a membership model to ensure its sustainability. There are three membership levels that require tiered payments from partners based on desired services. Current agreements with data providers are valid through the end of 2023 and will likely be renewed, so MIMO intends to endure and grow. While online resources have changed greatly since MIMO was established thirteen years ago, the database continues to act as a valuable open access resource that serves the unique need of providing a single access point to digital content on musical instruments.