Jim Lindner and I have been having an interesting off-list discussion
about "heroic measures" for saving tapes (and media in general).
It seems as if I have become a magnet for hard-to-restore tapes --
which I don't mind, it adds to the challenge of the job. Also, I
believe what may be hard-to-restore now may become easier-to-restore
if proper procedures and protocols are developed and promulgated.
My current interest was sparked by a collection of 3M 175 in New York
that a colleague is working on and a tape I have been asked to
restore by the Hewlett Library and a few other projects. My
understanding is these are all best/only copies extant.
One cassette tape that I used for testing a treatment for squealing
tapes was selected precisely because there were multiple copies
available. It had been mass duplicated, all the duplicates squealed,
but the masters had gone missing.
This side track started as part of a chemistry/mechanics/physics
discussion of tape failure modes at the microscopic level.
Jim sent me the reply (quoted below), and I am in agreement with it.
I have found clients usually reliable in making the decision when
presented with a cost estimate that substantially exceeds normal
I am a strong believer in only throwing money and time at problem
restorations if one or more of the following are true:
(a) There is a good likelihood that the money will make a difference
between success and failure
(b) There are likely to be no other equally good or better copies available
(c) The work affords an opportunity to refine restoration processes
in this class of challenge
Jim and I both think this is worthy of further discussion around the
archival community and I think a good place to start is how does an
archive evaluate the economic tradeoff? When does it make sense to
try and preserve the content? When is it time to merely perform last
rites without attempted recovery?
Mike Casey's FACET program helps with this, and I cannot wait for its
general availability. It provides a consistent risk evaluation across
all types of collections to help prioritize the order of restoration.
One of the things it does is promote to now the most at-risk
collections, although importance of the collection is one optional
factor that can be used.
>There are certain situations where it is best to
>look for another copy - rather then going to such extraordinary means to
>effect play back. In almost all circumstances I have found other copies -
>and it is more cost effective that way. Basically you need to bring the
>curatorial aspect in here - a question like - are the extraordinary efforts
>being attempted here justified by the value of the content in the first
>place?- are there other copies?- and indeed - by spending the money required
>by such extreme rescue efforts - are you limiting the opportunities to
>restore a great deal more content? These are all very important
>considerations as well. Basically - if you only have so much money - is it
>best to spend it to play back one recording or remaster 20 at the same cost.
>There have only been a very few times - and I have done allot of stuff -
>where the answer is - yes it is that valuable. Frankly - when the answer is
>YES - it has almost always been a forensic project where the budget money is
>available and the evidentiary nature of the tape is critical so that work is
>cost justified. So the issue goes beyond technical and into the areas of
>curatorial and business. Topics that may be worth discussing - I don't see
>much discussion on these points - but they are extremely important.
>I think that it is very important when discussing these issues to also
>consider the business and curatorial aspects. ... If you are
>looking at large migration projects - which is the market space in which we
>operate - [these issues] become extremely important. The numbers
>get so high that
>decisions need to be made and not all of them are "optimal". There are
Tape Restoration Seminar: MAY 9-12, 2006; details at Web site.
Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm