DEKKMMA: Digitalization of the Ethnomusicological Sound Archive of the Royal Museum for Central Africa

Project Description:




The sound archive of the department Ethnomusicology of the RMCA contains a collection of sound recordings from Central Africa, with focus on Congo and Rwanda. The sound archive contains 2521 hours of music, and the oldest recordings go back to 1910. The collection was gathered during and after the time of the colonial power of the Belgian Kingdom. The collection forms the musical memory of Central Africa and in terms of size, documentation, and musical quality, the RMCA collection is - without any doubt - the world's most important sound archive for this region. The most urgent objective is the fight against deterioration of a number of old recordings. But all audio files of delicate carriers need to be digitalized. In addition, all meta-data linked to the audio files needs to be digitalized as well, in order to be able to access the information in a much more convenient way. Concerning contextual documentation, part of it needs digitalization, another part needs more elaborate meta-data description. In order to open the archive and make it available to a broader public, database facilities and internet access are necessary. It is very important that this database facilities and internet access are integrated within the global ICT strategy of the Museum. This is the most challenging and innovative part of the project. Open access to this important collection will raise the interest of researchers, so that the study and respect for a rich cultural tradition which at this moment is suffering from local wars, can be continued and promoted. Our society has the moral duty to provide the best possible conditions for a stable and secure preservation, documentation and access to such an important collection.


The objectives of this project are:

  • Sound Digitalization: Digitalization of the complete sound archive of the ethnomusicology department of the RMCA
  • Meta-data Digitalization: Digitalization of the available meta-data associated with the audio archive which allow retrieval of the audio-files
  • Database Development and Integration: A database needs to be developed and fully integrated within the available infrastructure for information, communication and technology (ICT) at the RMCA
  • Context Digitalization: Meta-data production and digitalization of the contextual information associated with the sound archive
  • Music Information Retrieval: Exploration of data-mining techniques and operationality as a music information retrieval system for future applications


Promotors: Dr. J. GANSEMANS (EM - RMCA : Department of Ethnomusicology - Royal Museum for Central Africa)
Prof. Dr. M. LEMAN (IPEM - UGent : Department of Musicology - Ghent University)
Prof. Dr. R. DE CALUWE (TELIN-CSL - UGent : Computer Science Laboratory of the Department of Telecommunications and Information Processing - Ghent University)
Prof. Dr. D. DEMOLIN (PHONOLAB - ULB : Phonology Laboratory - Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Ir. A. DE MÛELENAERE (ICT - RMCA : ICT Departement - Royal Museum for Central Africa) 
Financial Support:

Belgian Federal Science Policy Office
Prime Minister's Services : Federal Public Planning Service Science Policy (PPS Science Policy)