At some point in the past there was a discussion on this list about
Kodak tapes and Vinegar Syndrome. I am assessing a university
collection right now that has a 7-inch reel of "Eastman" brand tape
with noticeable VS and also radial stress lines emanating from hub
outward through the entire pack. I have come across quite a few Kodak
acetate-based reels over the years and most have had a pronounced
vinegar smell-- stings the eyes and nose, etc. I also have seen some
incredibly loose packs-- literally sagging off the reel-- and I
suspect that quite a few of those were also Kodak quarter-inch tapes.
I realize that VS shows up in a wide range of acetate-based tapes, not
just Kodak, but others besides me have reported similar experiences
with Kodak reels from the 1960s. I think someone from Kodak may have
responded to some of the earlier postings (a discussion of what was
meant by "auto-catalytic" and that other tapes in proximity could be
"infected") but it was a few years ago and I haven't gone to check the
list archives to investigate. Just thought I'd chime in with more
anecdotal comments about finding Vinegar Syndrome (and loose pack
winds) in old Kodak acetate tapes. Come to think of it, though, while
the VS may be exacerbated by lack of venting, the tapes I have found
have just been in regular cardboard boxes, ok, perhaps a few in plastic
bags inside, I can't remember. I have long suspected that the
formulation used for Kodak tapes made them highly susceptible to begin
with, even if "vented."
I have been wondering if someone is keeping some kind of grid or
journal noting problems or issues encountered with specific tapes? It
would be great to have a handy reference for such a thing. In my
travels I have come across so many strange brands of tape and wish too
that there was definitive tape guide where a person could look up a
brand and "model" number and see approximately it's dates of
manufacture, parent company, lengths available, and other salient
information that might aid in identifying and addressing preservation
or playback. I can imagine a web site where photos or scans of tape
boxes could be contributed by anyone to serve as a kind of visual
catalog or encyclopedia of tape brands? Does such a site exist already
Whatever. Thanks for the update and have fun with the VS reels.
Western Folklife Center
On Sep 9, 2005, at 6:12 PM, Richard L. Hess wrote:
> An update on Vinegar Syndrome in audio tapes. More anecdotal evidence
> that helps support the well-known rule of storing film in vented cans.
> I received four reels of Kodak sound recording tape that were recorded
> in 1962 and 1963. All are Triacetate backing. Two are 1.0 mil on
> 5-inch reels and two are 1.5 mil on 7-inch reels.
> All of the reels were very loosely wound. The two 7-inch reels were in
> plastic bags inside their boxes. One of them reeked of vinegar when I
> opened it and when I rewound it. I had to move away from the prep
> machine during initial rewind.
> It did not seem to suffer from any of the loss-of-lubricant we've
> started to see in Sony reel-to-reel tapes and 3M dictation cassettes
> (among others).
> The outside of the tape pack could be easily depressed 1/4 to 3/8 of
> an inch, the pack was so loose. I wonder if that much material was
> lost? The tape still played fine and appeared dimensionally stable,
> but this is as far gone as any I have seen judging from the odor.
> I have never seen this before with tapes stored in the more usual
> cardboard boxes without being sealed in a bag. Doug Nishimura of IPI
> has more examples than I, but I am concerned that we're going to start
> to see significant degradation of acetate-based tapes. The risk of
> this tape is growing, IMHO.
> I'm glad these are getting transferred. They are interviews with
> people who were at one of the Shaker communities in the early 1900s.
> Apologies for the cross posting. I'm not looking to get into a major
> discussion about this -- just a heads up for those who are keeping
> track of at-risk media. Probably if we do discuss it, it should be on
> AMIA-L as that is where most of the knowledgeable VS people reside
> (due to the issue surfacing in film archives a bit more than in tape
> archives). If you are interested in the list go to
> Richard L. Hess email:
> [log in to unmask]
> Vignettes Media web:
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
> Detailed contact information: