The sheet music in this digital collection has been selected from the Sheet Music Collection at the John Hay Library at Brown University. The full collection consists of approximately 500,000 items, of which perhaps 250,000 are currently available for use. It is one of the largest collections of sheet music in any library in the United States. The sheet music, primarily vocal music of American imprint, dates from the 18th century to the present day, with the largest concentration of titles in the period 1840-1950.
Categories of particular note in the full collection include 19th century color lithographs; the works of Boston lithographers; music relating to World Wars I and II; music from the Yiddish-American stage at the turn of the century; early American imprints; Confederate imprints; Broadway show music; movie music; musical settings of American poetry; Rhode Island music; octavo band arrangements; and a very large collection of general popular music of the 19th and 20th centuries.
One of the most important categories in the Sheet Music Collection is the African-Americana. This consists of music by and relating to African Americans, from the 1820s to the present day, and consists of approximately 6,000 items. Of that number, 1,700 items are fully cataloged in MARC format, from which the titles digitized in this project have been drawn.