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ARSCLIST  June 2003

ARSCLIST June 2003

Subject:

Re: Long-term/preservation audio

From:

Mike Richter <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 27 Jun 2003 18:32:00 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (73 lines)

At 08:57 PM 6/27/2003 -0400, [log in to unmask] wrote:

>The question about "long term" preservation is of concern to me because of
>my own situation, which may be somewhat alien to this group.
>
>I have in my possession, and have access to, audio material which has not
>been accessed by anybody for fifty years. It is unlikely to see any
>maintenance in the foreseeable future.
>
>Most, 40s-50s vintage wire recordings, film, instantaneous discs, and
>tape, is in good condition and probably will not deteriorate much in the
>next 50 years, however I would like to make copies to distribute in the
>hope that some interest can be generated, or at least to increase the
>chances that the content will be preserved.
>
>Fifteen years ago I started making copies on "Professional" 1/4 inch tape
>(7-1/2'/s half track, one pass). Some of this material is already
>unplayable without baking or other treatment. I can relatively easily
>transfer this material to CD both as .WAV and as CD audio.
>
>The question is: is this the best that can be done under the
>circumstances? Is it even worth doing? If the original media, perishable
>as it is, will last longer than any current medium, the only reason to
>make transfers is for immediate distribution.
>
>I know of no way to put this material into any sort of database where it
>will be maintained by IT professionals. Is anyone establishing an "audio
>cemetery" where digital archives will receive "perpetual care"?

My observations are those of an amateur in the field and should be
discounted heavily. In addition, they are heretical in the view of some, so
I must trust that the Inquisition will not be reintroduced.

There is an inherent problem with the advance of technology. By the time
that durability of a medium is established, it is obsolete. We now know
that "shellac" discs have long life - but that is of little practical
interest for the archivist. We have learned that some open-reel magnetic
tape has survived well for decades, but there is no assurance that the same
formulation can be purchased today. We can guess, hope and expect (with
fingers crossed) that such digital media as CD-R will last, but by the time
we know, the formulations will have changed and any data will be
questionable at best. (Accelerated life test is dubious since there are no
models for the degradation, hence no assurance that the "acceleration" is
modelled appropriately.)

As for "perpetual care", that's costly. At the least, one would need an
institution committed to such preservation as are Stanford and Yale in
their classical vocal archives. In all likelihood, a substantial grant for
maintenance would be needed - I would guess at seven or eight figures in
dollars.

The question then can be reduced to the practical. For my own purposes,
fidelity of the copy is less significant than sufficient distribution to
make the risk of ultimate disappearance slight. Thus, I transfer my
materials to CD as WAV files, then have MP3 CD-ROMs pressed and made
available; typically the pressing is 1000 pieces so that both the
durability of pressed discs and the advantage of numbers provide the
assurance I seek.

I would like to have the most valuable materials preserved without the
losses of compression and the ultimate risk that the medium will break down
or become unreadable through obsolescence. However, I made the choice long
ago; it may not be yours. In the position in which you find yourself now,
I'd urge that you digitize your existing tapes first, then capture the
remaining material in digital form. For your internal archive, save WAV
files; for dissemination to libraries of various sorts, CD-DA and/or a
compressed should be considered.


Mike
[log in to unmask]
http://www.mrichter.com/

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