Joanna Bullivant

British Library affiliate

Joanna has worked with the British Library and the University of Oxford on two AHRC-funded projects working on the music manuscripts of composer Frederick Delius (1862-1934). She used British Library manuscripts to create the Delius Catalogue of Works and worked with music curators to create Delius content for the Discovering Music resource.

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Working with the British Library offers so much scope for combining original research with work that engages wider audiences.

I used the British Library’s music collections for my doctoral work and had always found their holdings fascinating and benefited from the help of curators. I was therefore excited to work in the Library as part of the collaborative project Delius, Modernism, and the Sound of Place.

My task was to use Frederick Delius’s manuscripts to create a digital thematic catalogue of his music: what became The Delius Catalogue of Works. When I started work on the catalogue, I was able to form a collaborative relationship with curators, learning about cataloguing, purchasing of collections and all manner of things from colleagues. I was delighted when this resource won the BL Labs Research Award in 2018.

During this project, I became interested in the problem of making music manuscripts more accessible to a public who may not have easy access to them and who may not read music. I worked with music curators to build a follow-on project – Digital Delius - which would create a digital exhibition of Delius’s manuscripts with explanatory articles, letters, audio clips, and other items that could bring the manuscripts to life. This exhibition became part of the Library’s Discovering Music web resource (you can read my article on 'Delius in performance' here).

I am now working again with the British Library on a new project looking at Elgar’s manuscripts, through which we aim to create more digital resources to bring audiences closer to the Library’s music collections. Working with the British Library offers so much scope for combining original research with work that engages wider audiences. This keeps me coming back for more projects!

Key points

  • Joanna’s research centres on the Library’s outstanding collections of music manuscripts of composers such as Frederick Delius and Edward Elgar.
  • She has worked with the British Library, the Delius Trust, and the Villiers Quartet to create digital resources which enable the public to access and understand these collections.
  • Her work features in the British Library web resource Discovering Music and she has won the British Library Labs Research Award for the Delius Catalogue of Works.


Delius, Modernism, and the Sound of Place

Using manuscripts and digital technologies to understand the composer Frederick Delius

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