Music and the Performing Arts in Colonial America

Rich Rath/ February 14, 2018/ Featured, Research/ 0 comments

MAPACA, a database of more than 53,000 newspaper articles on music and the performing arts from colonial North America, 1704-1783.

The Music and the Performing Arts in Colonial America database (MAPACA) is a research tool with advanced search capabilities that include dateline, scalable location searching by city, region, continent, and colonial nation in addition to article texts of anything related to music, dance, poetry, and theater, all very broadly construed. For example, music includes the sounds of runaway drummers and church bells in addition to concerts and such. The search interface is imposing at first, but a little work with the excellent help page will render everything clear. The advantage for researchers is that can build any database query that can be composed in SQL without having to learn any query languages. For example, one could search for “bell” and “ring rang or rung” in the article text for any articles published in New England but which refer to events in North America but not New England. Such a search could provide insight into how important news (which was often announced by the tolling of bells) traveled from one colonial region to another – in this case, New England and the other colonies. Such complex querying results in a pattern where early in the century, most news was either local or about England. As the century progressed, news came more and more to report on inter-colonial events, especially from the 1760s onward. This shows the budding of the disparate colonies becoming American in the years leading up to the revolution. A simpler search interface could never pull out results like this.

MAPACA is a labor of many people over the course of twenty-five years – as well as four centuries! The database was originally compiled by Mary Jane Corry, Kate Van Winkle Keller, and Robert M. Keller and released as a CD, The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690-1783 (New York: University Music Editions, 1997). The full list of people who worked on the CD version can be found in the user guide for their website. This interface and the port to a web-based MySQL database is a project of the Digital Arts and Humanities Initiative at the University of Hawaiʿi at Mānoa. Richard Cullen Rath ported the database to MySQL and designed the query interface. David Goldberg did the programming. This new work was made possible with the generous support of the College of Arts and Humanities at UHM.

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