Facilitator for Broadside Day

Integrating Broadside Ballads (IBBA)

The Bodleian Library team for Broadside Ballad Connections had a great time at Cecil Sharp House for Broadside Day.   The brief for Helen Weinstein was to facilitate a pathway to impact, and be there to launch the new project funded by JISC.  The IBBA project has involved the integration of online ballad collections, building on the work cataloguing broadside ballads at the Bodleian Library itself.  Most important was to help engage with users, and to demonstrate the product, have an energetic and open Q & A session.  The aim of Helen Weinstein's facilitation was to create some useful feedback to help with the development of the integrated ballad catalogue on behalf of The Bodleian Broadside Ballad project.  The speakers were Alexandra Franklin and Giles Berger from The Bodelian Library, Steve Roud from the Vaughan Williams Library, and Eric Nebeker representing the Santa Barbara EBBA Ballad Project.  

There was a very lively and engaged audience.  It was the best place to be to measure the potential impact of this research project with a group of well informed lay researchers, enthusiasts and performers, from the archive and the folk traditions.  We had some excellent conversations and worked together to find the most useful format for the launch to allow everyone to test out using the website, to have an agreement about feedback from the audience as a focus group,  in addition to hearing first impressions facilitated by Helen in a large group discussion on the day.  If you would like to be involved in the conversation and help user test and develop the next phase of the project, please be in touch with the project by emailing in your interest or being in touch via twitter at the addresses here: 




Integrating Broadside Ballads Archives


Broadside ballads, printed cheaply on one side of a sheet of paper from the earliest days of printing, contain song-lyrics, tunes and woodcut illustrations and bear news, prophecies, histories, moral advice, religious warnings, political arguments, satire, comedy and bawdy tales. Sold in large numbers on street-corners, in town-squares and at fairs by travelling ballad-singers and pinned on the walls of alehouses and other public places, they were sung, read and viewed with pleasure by a wide audience, but have been handed-down to us in only small numbers.

The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford holds nearly 30,000 songs, many of them unique survivals, printed from the 16th to the 20th Centuries, accessible online since 1999 through an existing Bodleian Broadside Ballads database (www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads). Whilst still the largest digital collection of broadside ballads, it has joined by other initiatives which this project now aims to connect. The English Broadside Ballad Archive based in the Early-Modern Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara specialises in ballads of the 17th century and provides full-text transcriptions, as well as images and catalogue records, of over 4,000 ballads. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, based at the English Folk Song and Dance Society Society headquartered at Cecil Sharp House in London, maintains the Roud Broadside Index of references to songs which appeared on broadsides, chapbooks, songsters, and other cheap print publications, up to about 1920.


Integrating Broadside Ballads Archives aims to improve public access to and understanding of the rich musical, literary, visual and cultural traditions embodied by the broadside ballad. It aims to further cooperation in the description and understanding of broadside ballads among institutions holding ballads and between scholars and students of traditional music and the history of the print trade. It will raise the profile of the broadside ballad form within teaching and research and among practitioners of printing and traditional music. It will innovate in methods of displaying ballads online to these user-groups and enhance their interpretation.

Anticipated Outputs and Outcomes

The project will connect the two largest digital archives of broadside ballads (Bodleian and UCSB) and allow cross-searching via an open semantic cataloguing standard, which will be published. The project will develop the Roud Database of references to the broadside and song traditions as an interoperable resource and link it to the Bodleian ballads catalogue. Records for Bodleian ballads will become discoverable and reusable through persistent URLs and enhanced metadata. The project will develop state-of-the art digital image recognition technology developed at the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering to provide a new way of browsing broadside ballads’ illustrative traditions.

Project Staff

Project Manager

Giles Bergel
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
01865 271935

Project Director

Alexandra Franklin (Project Director)
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford  
(01865) 277006


Facilitating Bodleian Library Project