History of the U.Va. Music Library
After several years of planning, the Music Library was established in 1977 when the collections of music books and scores were moved from Alderman Library to Old Cabell Hall, home of the McIntire Department of Music. The department's study collection of scores was incorporated into the collection at that time, and the materials were housed in the lowest level of Old Cabell. By 1981, the Music Library also took over responsibility for the Music Department's sound recording collection, although the recordings remained in the Listening Room on the main floor of Old Cabell Hall. In 1990, the Cave, a snack bar in the lower level of Old Cabell, was appropriated for use by the Music Library and for the first time, both the recorded and printed collections were served by one circulation desk.
Several significant gifts were instrumental in helping to develop the Library's collections. In 1946, Alexander Mackay Smith donated his collection, including complete runs of what at that time constituted the major musicological journals, reference works, bibliographies, printed library catalogs, monographs, and scores. The collection's greatest strength is in contemporary editions of 18th-century instrumental music, particularly chamber music. Musical selection corresponds with Thomas Jefferson's catalog of 1783.
The collection of composer and musicologist Alfred Swan is most notable for his correspondence with prominent members of the Russian intelligentsia, including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Nicholas Medtner, Pavel Chesnokov, and Alexandra Tolstoy, the daughter of Leo Tolstoy. The collection also contains printed music scores, notes, photographs, press clippings, and typescripts of studies of Russian music.
University alumnus John Davidson's gift of sound recordings of classical music added considerable depth to the recorded sound collection, almost doubling its then-current size. Another important force in the building of the collection was Ernest Mead, who, in his role as Music Department chair, tirelessly sought donations for the acquisition of scholarly materials for the library.
Today with a collection of over 135,000 books, scores and sound recordings, extensive online collections (including access to over 500,000 tracks of music), and robust computing capabilities, the Music Library at the University of Virginia has one of the most significant music collections in the southeastern United States and is a physical hub for music research in the digital age.