Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Virginia Danielson Departs HCL for NYU Abu Dhabi

Virginia Danielson  

Vigrinia Danielson


May 31, 2011 – After 12 years as the Richard F. French Librarian of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Virginia Danielson will step down in June to take a position as the Associate Librarian for Collections and Public Services at New York University’s new Abu Dhabi campus. In her new position, Danielson will provide leadership in the planning and implementation of innovative reference, instruction, and access services and work to develop on-site collections appropriate to the new campus’ academic programs. 

Danielson’s work in Harvard libraries spans more than two decades, beginning as a catalog assistant in Widener Library in 1987. A year later, she moved to the Loeb Music Library, the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard University, where she worked as project manager of a federal grant. Danielson later assumed the responsibilities of the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and curator of the Archive of World Music, both units within Loeb Music. In 1998, she was appointed acting director of Loeb Music, and in 1999 was named the French Librarian. In her time at Loeb Music, Danielson played a leading role in transforming music librarianship at Harvard, and in the wider academic world.

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Following Danielson’s departure in June, Sarah Adams, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library at Loeb Music, will serve as interim head. 

“While we will miss Ginny as the leader of Loeb Music Library, it is clear she is taking up a role that has evolved from her involvement in ethnomusicology, and specifically, the research she had done earlier in Egypt. She has a deep respect for the Middle East complimented by optimism for all the social and cultural changes that are emerging from countries in that region. To take up a leadership position in the library of NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus at this time is an exceptional alignment of Ginny’s library career with her aspiration to contribute to a new educational institution,” said Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College.

Recognizing the impact of the digital world on libraries, she helped lead the creation of the Audio Preservation Studio, a cutting edge facility for audio digitization. In addition to digitally-preserving hundreds of recordings, the studio was instrumental in developing Sound Directions, a set of best practices and digital tools for audio preservation. The studio’s work allows scholars across the globe to access recordings held at Loeb Music, while also ensuring the preservation of the fragile original recordings.

Danielson also supported efforts to digitize scores and other printed and manuscript materials from Loeb Music’s collections for both teaching and research. She played a key role in the founding of the Music Treasures Consortium, an online portal that offers access to primary sources in music held at several leading music libraries.

 “Having the opportunity to work with Harvard library staff, particularly those in Loeb Music Library, has been one of the highlights of my career,” Danielson said. “Together, we have expanded access to scholarly music materials for both students and faculty, while continuing to add important new collections to the already-impressive holdings of Loeb Music Library.”

Acquisitions made during Danielson’s tenure range from 18th-century manuscripts and first- and early editions to unique recordings of folk traditions of circum-polar peoples in Siberia to new music of young, 21st century composers. Among the most noteworthy: the Solti collection; several major faculty collections in ethnomusicology; two major Indian collections, that add to the James Rubin Collection; a major collection of Ottoman Classical music; the Daniel Albright Collection of historic classical recordings and hundreds of recordings and primary sources in service of jazz studies.

A music scholar in her own right, Danielson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, and has conducted field and archival research on Arabic song in al-Minya and Cairo, Egypt. Her research focused on female singers, notably the international star Umm Kulthum, and Arab popular music generally, as well as on Muslim devotional expression. 

Danielson has served numerous terms as a Visiting Lecturer on Music in the Harvard Music Department, usually teaching Music of the Middle East, and has given countless public lectures at other major institutions, including the University of Chicago, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Berkley and the American University in Cairo. She has done consulting work for the Music Division of the Library of Congress, the Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications Program and for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Cultural Heritage. 

An award-winning author, Danielson’s book, ‘The Voice of Egypt:’ Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song and Egyptian Society in the 20th Century, was awarded the Alan P. Merriam for best monograph in ethnomusicology in 1997. Her work was the foundation for Michal Goldman’s film, “A Voice Like Egypt,” one of two documentaries included in the 1996 New York Film Festival.  Danielson also co-edited the Middle East volume of The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.

A recognized leader in music librarianship, Danielson has served with a number of music library groups in her career. Most recently, she chaired the Collections Task Force of the National Recordings Preservation Board. She has also chaired the Reference and Instructional Services Planning Oversight Group and the Task Force for Online Exhibits, both at Harvard. She has also been recognized with a number of awards and fellowships, including the 2007 Lucia Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award and in 1996 received a Douglas W. Bryant Fellowship.