You pose a very important question and one that has many facets. I’m Head
of the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I can
only speak to my institution but I’m interested in the responses of other
universities and public institutions as well.
We do not dispose of archival physical materials after they have been
digitized and have no plans of disposing of them in the near future.
Although, I do wonder at what point in the future when items degrade to the
point that they are not playable (ex. delaminated lacquer discs that were
previously digitized) is there a good reason to keep them? I’m happy to say
we are close to completing the digitization of our 12,000 lacquer discs in
our collection but we have plenty of tapes left to do.
COVID has not really changed this as we previously did not provide access
to unique physical materials, such as lacquer discs, but digitize them for
access due to degradation issues of the items.
We do provide access to published physical items such as LPs and 78s.
However, to get to another part of your question, we collect less of these
items than we did in the past, especially very popular materials due to the
digital presence of the content. We have started focusing more on
collecting local published materials that were not produced in mass
numbers. It’s also important to note that we don’t buy items but are built
on 100% donations. One of the problems for institutions, such as ours, in
this time is budget cuts, and because we have less resources we are more
particular about what we collect because collecting, processing, storing,
digitizing, and digital preservation are not cheap. So, we are using our
limited resources to focus on preserving unique materials.
To answer your question from my point of view as an archivist, yes, the
content of a recording is more important than the physical item but we will
keep the physical items for as long as possible.
Thanks for asking this question,
On Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 7:30 AM MacFadyen, David <[log in to unmask]>
> Instructive parallels can be drawn with book collecting—and whether that’s
> a meaningful exercise any longer. Two useful viewpoints come from the
> Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America:
> —and the Wall Street Journal:
> The former maintains that “the profession of the rare book dealer is quite
> secure.” The latter holds that: “the demand for rare and collectible books
> has been more or less stable.”
> In the same spirit and context I would strongly suggest this new
> documentary on NY booksellers, which shows not only the challenges facing
> physical media in 2020, but also the possibility for a “golden age of
> collecting” (https://youtu.be/ymcRRt3Ix04).