This is definitely the most expensive and time-consuming part of any archiving. The transfer stuff
is actually pretty easy -- this might bruise our audio egos but it's true. Stuff that obsesses this
list, like what format to transfer into, how much hard drives cost, etc, that's trivial too --
again, no offense to our egos. The uncommon, expensive and prized part of the equation is that rare
individual who is expert in the content, has the patience to wade through all the source material
and is organized and with clear enough communication skills to catalog and describe the archive so
it is accessible. Even more valuable is that person with a wide and deep historic knowledge so they
can not only list/catalog but provide context. I am not confident that there are enough such
individuals to keep track of the vast majority of recorded sounds, and very valuable/important
material will and does fall through the cracks.
I'm working on a project right now that will end up being a pretty valuable public resource because
it will probably be the largest bunch of this kind of audio content in one place available for
public use. The only reason this project is feasible is because the person who produced the original
content made copious, detailed notes and even provided some context and sometimes even reviewed the
content or performance. This makes it affordable and feasible for a trained archivist to slice, dice
and catalog the audio transfers in a sensible way in a reasonable timeframe at a reasonable cost.
This stands in very stark contrast to another large project I did for a corporate customer, which I
doubt will ever be properly understood or cataloged because there simply is no institutional
historical knowledge available to properly understand or explain it. At least that customer had the
foresight to take the content off decaying media and put it into their IT storage system, the idea
being that it might be useful one day (and, ironically, it was much cheaper for this company to add
hard drives into an already robust data farm than to pay attention or money to maintain boxes and
boxes of tapes; the client made it pretty clear the tapes would be dumpstered despite my protests).
Anyway, despite what our egos may say, our digi-toys and tape machines are a small part of what's
really needed with all of this. Once again, you can't ever automate or replace a knowledgable and
skilled human being, and a true archivist with all those skills I mentioned above is a very rare
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steven Smolian" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2006 8:48 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) Study
> Part of the management cost is that of providing access to the file, i.e., cataloging. That is a
> huge expense since it requires a great deal of time. LC is doing this now as it works its way
> through various broadcast collections.
> There may be one "Your Hit Parade" file of, say 26 programs- a broadcast year's worth, but the
> file is
> opaque until the songs performed on it and those singing them are cataloged, item by item.
> Steven Smolian
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, May 14, 2006 10:40 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) Study
>> On 13/05/06, Richard L. Hess wrote:
>>>> II. Sound engineers and technicians:  perceived needs for
>>>> standards or "best practices" to facilitate sharing of preserved
>>> We already have standards for audio files that provide a lot of
>>> benefit. I am seeing an attempt to use 24/96 as a standard for
>>> everything. While I agree that 24/96 (or I actually prefer 24/88.2)
>>> should be the norm for musical recordings, I see the uncritical
>>> application of this standard to voice recordings as a waste of money.
>>> I do not subscribe to the argument that disks are cheap - their
>>> management is not. If the difference in archiving the oral history
>>> archive is between 300 TB and 1 PB, there is a huge cost difference
>>> there, long-term.
>> I disagree here. The cost of management is basically a cost per item (or
>> file). The number of bytes in a file has little effect.
>> As storage disks get bigger, the same number of files on the same number
>> of disks can be of higher quality with no extra cost.
>> A high quality file might be at most six times the size of a low quality
>> audio file. Now compare the change in disk capacity from the 5 1/4 inch
>> floppies of 20 years ago to the DVDs of today.
>> There is also an argument in favour of high quality sound for oral
>> histories. In the future it may well be possible to perform computer
>> analysis of speech patterns, accents, and voiceprints which are not
>> possible today. Oral history material will reveal many things to
>> researchers which those who simply want a text transcript of the words
>> have not considered.
>>>> how such standards/practices should be determined,
>>> Both scientific testing and industry consensus
>>>> and how
>>>> often they should be subject to review
>>> Probably every five years or so. Perhaps more frequently at the cusps
>>> of technology.
>>>> and by whom;
>>> Industry experts as well as scientists
>> Don Cox
>> [log in to unmask]
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