National Folk Archive in the UK Launches Online Catalog

Interior of Vaughan Williams Memorial Library
The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in England is launching an online catalog at midday on 25 January 2011. This is the first phase of an on-going program to enable anybody around the world to access information about items held by the library and even browse a library shelf.

This first phase will make available the Leslie Shepard Collection. The Shepard collection was chosen as a pilot project to test and tailor the system to meet the needs of our unique library. Following this pilot, VWML will continue to convert and upload existing electronic data, as well a converting its card catalogs and add new additions directly onto the system.

The Leslie Shepard Collection

Leslie Alan Shepard (1917–2004) was a passionate collector of books and printed ephemera on a variety of subjects, including folk song and broadside ballads. Born in East London in 1917, Shepard moved to Ireland in 1969, settling in Dublin where he died in 2004. He was a world authority and prolific writer on street literature, early moving images, the paranormal, and many other subjects.

Towards the end of his life and after his death, Shepard’s books and printed items were dispersed. His Bram Stoker collection was given to the Dublin City Library. He donated material of Irish interest to the Irish Traditional Music Archive shortly after its foundation, and his books relating to the subjects of broadsides and printing, folk music and street literature were kindly bestowed on the VWML in 2002. With the help of several volunteers, this extraordinary collection of 1,471 items was transported to London, organized, labeled, and cataloged in an internal database.

The Catalog

In 2010, with the support of Arts Council England, a project to migrate the Library’s internal databases to a fully integrated web-based library management system was begun. Cataloguer Elaine Bradtke, and IT expert and EFDSS trustee Doug Kingston collaborated on implementing Koha, an open-source system which was developed in New Zealand ( The literature collection was deemed the first priority and VWML will continue to convert and upload all existing electronic data, which currently amounts to an additional 13,500 items. In due course, catalogs for all media will be made available online.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library houses a unique multimedia collection of material on traditional arts and culture, including books, manuscripts, off-prints, pamphlets, periodicals, serials, press cuttings, broadsides, prints, paintings, line drawings, photographs, slides, artifacts, ephemera, records, reel-to-reel tapes, phonograph cylinders, videos, cine films, CDs and audio cassettes.

Along with various other recent initiatives (e.g. VWML Online and the Take 6 Archive, both accessible through the EFDSS website at, this web-based catalog is part of an ongoing project to bring information about the contents of this library to a wider audience and make them more accessible. It represents a major change in the library’s working methods and is the first step in converting the catalog to a more user friendly and accessible system. The Leslie Shepard Collection itself is a significant contribution to the library as it augments and supports the existing subject areas and collections.

The catalog will be found at

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central


One thought on “National Folk Archive in the UK Launches Online Catalog”

  1. Such naifs these folkies are…folk music has always been about social commentary, tied to the condition of a particular folk, including politics.

    I guess they didn’t think through the subject matter, song titles or album names…


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