The archive in question, AIATSIS, is in the same boat as many hundreds of others around the world: holders of unique historical and cultural content carried on media formats that are actively degrading and already obsolete. Many archivists believe that we have a 15-20 year window in which to digitally preserve this content before it becomes either impossible or prohibitively expensive due to the combination of degradation and obsolescence. There is less time for some formats. Possibly more for other formats, such as certain types of magnetic tape, if playback machines and spare parts are stockpiled now.
I am happy to see a call for action on behalf of AIATSIS, which I visited a year ago, but I am also mindful of the need to lobby on behalf of many other archives with a similar problem. It is our generation that must digitally preserve this irreplaceable content before it is too late. The time for action is upon us. Some of us are now trying to make strong cases for institutional or governmental support for this effort, realizing that it is beyond the resources of our archive or any one organization. You might be interested in a study that Indiana University produced this month that strongly states the need for massive and rapid digitization of its 450,000 hours of content and analyzes some of the format-based degradation and obsolescence issues we all face. It may provide outside validation that you can use in your effort. The report is available from
In the U.S., the National Recording Preservation Board is producing a study of audio preservation issues followed by a national plan of action. Both should be available within a year.
Similarly, I would love to see justifications developed by others, as they may be useful within my own institution.
Associate Director for Recording Services
Archives of Traditional Music
Co-Chair, ARSC Technical Committee
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Maria Fletcher
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 6:51 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] urgent help need to save indigenous cultural archive
Apologies if I have double posted this message.
I am currently hoping to establish a consortium of like minded people and
who can help preserve over 100,000 hours of musical recordings of indigenous
australian aboriginal music and oral song. Without Federal funding, the
recordings, currently on magentic tape, will deteriorate, taking with them
the only known extant record of ancient traditions and heritage.
Anyone who feels able to contribute either in the way of lobbying,
petitioning, or through volunteering their expertise, please indicate your
interest by replying to to this message. I am then hoping to establish an
online campaign to further the cause of preserving this essential cultural