Grappling with Protean Archives

EBBA's goal is to make seventeenth-century broadside ballads fully accessible as texts, art, music, and cultural records of the period. We currently provide three types of high-quality images of the ballads: ballad sheet facsimiles (example, description) and facsimile transcriptions (example, description), and album facsimilies (example, description). In addition, we supply recordings (example, description) of the ballads whenever a tune is extant and extensive cataloguing (see below). We offer both basic and advanced search functions that allow readers easily to find collections or individual ballads as well as their constituent parts or makers by a variety of means. We also offer background essays on the various ballad collections included in EBBA and on ballad culture generally as well as other helpful ballad resources. For more about the EBBA project, see About Us.

The following pages lay out EBBA's philosophy about the protean nature of ballads and the difficulty of pinning them down under consistent standards. First, Holding to Standards provides examples of the many standards employed in the cataloguing of the wide range of metadata for EBBA's sources. The Protean Challenge: Shifty/Shifting Standards details the unstable nature of existing cataloguing systems while Protean Ephemera: Broadside Ballads provides examples of the shifting nature of ephemera like broadside ballads. Next, The Menelean EBBA Archivist shows examples of some of the approaches through which EBBA has managed to pin down the protean ballads. Finally,The Rootmass of the Woodblock is a talk on the protean nature of the ballad's illustrations given by Associate Director Carl Stahmer and Project Manager Megan Palmer Browne.