We recently received a donated collection of oral history recordings on
cassette, done mostly in the mid-1980s.  After giving the lot a once-over,
I discovered that the felt pressure pads on a number of the tapes have
wholly or partially rotted out.  With these recordings, I've simply been
transferring the tapes into new cassette housings.  However, disassembly of
the problem housings and general processing of the collection has revealed
additional issues--rusted housing screws, oxidation on metal parts, the
fact that they arrived in a cardboard box full of dead bugs and dirt, that
most didn't have cases, etc.--that reinforce what I suspected about their
storage environment and cause greater concern about the overall condition
of the collection.  I'm looking for feedback in a few areas.

1) Since so many of these tapes have obvious problems (such as the above
mentioned rotting pressure pads) that need to be dealt with before they can
be played, does it make sense to open up and inspect all the housings--even
those that do not show strong outward signs of problems--and transfer tapes
where obvious rust and other moisture related problems with the housing are
found, or is it better to leave the tapes that are in functional but
afflicted housings in their original containers?

2) What impact will putting tapes into new housing with different sized
pressure pads have on playback?  With at least one example, a tape has an
intact (in this case meaning "non-rotted") felt, but the adhesive is loose.
 If the difference in pressure pad size between the original housing and
the new housing would cause playback problems, I could pull a copy off the
tape with it in this housing and then transfer the tape to a new one

I'm sure the problems with these recordings go beyond just moisture related
issues to the housings.  Although none of the tapes I've inspected seem to
be sticky, I'm sure the tape itself has suffered from 20 years in an
attic/basement/porch/shower stall/barn/car trunk.  And judging by what I've
heard already, the source recordings were pretty bad to begin with.  One of
the joys of the profession.

Thanks, as always--

Andy Kolovos
Vermont Folklife Center
P.O. Box 442
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 388-4964
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