Thought provoking stuff Jim. 
Sobering yet realistic.
And a "prod" in the fundament (so to speak) for complacency.
I look forward to reading the views of others on your incisive words.

Thanks Jim.


-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jim Lindner
Sent: Sunday, 1 November 2009 12:48 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] AIATSIS, but allot more - and controversial for some

Mark I believe you are being a bit too modest. I have visited the
AIATSIS facility twice with a few years between the visits and I have to
say that AIATSIS has one of the best equipped preservation facilities
considering the size and age of the collection in the world. Not only do
they have the equipment, but they have trained staff and they actually
get work done... no kidding. It is a model facility in many ways with
all gears turning. Somehow even management has been able to work with
staff and facility and it ALL seems to work. A model. AIATSIS is
extremely well funded compared to virtually any archive of its size that
I have ever seen, and they are focusing on preservation and access with
resources, skill, and dedication.

I was extremely impressed on my visits there. While everyone can use
additional "help", I have to say that this group is in a far better
position to give it then almost any place I have seen anywhere. In some
ways - they could be a model for others to follow in many other places
around the world. In terms of what they have done with the money they
have received - they should share that knowledge with others, because
they have been very efficient and actually turned the money into
functioning preservation and access as opposed to lots of consulting
reports and cold vaults.

Perhaps I may as well say here and now that I differ in my assessment of
the general "window of opportunity" given for digitization and
remastering of these types of materials. It may be because I have
visited far more vaults and collections then most or it may be because I
have been involved in more projects then most. Perhaps it is some recent
personal events in particular that encourage me to be more outspoken
then usual, but I find that this general 15 to 30 year time period given
is just long enough to encourage even more procrastination. 15 to 30
years from now - well that is just long enough for the new incoming
archivists to consider - well 30 years from now I will be retiring just
like my boss, guess this will fall to the next person after all - not
me. I have tired of seeing "preservation" in the form of turning money
into cold vaults without those who should have been responsible seeing
the obvious outcome of having lots of cold tape and nothing to play it
on and no one who knows how to even if you did.

The irresponsibility has been incomprehensible. Cold vaults as the
"solution" as opposed to a very temporary way station in a process. It
is now largely too late - and no one really wants to deal with it.

Very few seem to grasp or acknowledge that the content that was made by
hundreds of thousands of machines by millions of people, over decades of
time, simply can not be remastered by a handful of people, largely
academics, interns, and hobbyists using a paltry amount of unsupportable
decks hooked up to absurdly overpriced DAW's and spending hours of time
tweaking the single result so it is "just right" - as if there were only
5 more to do that year.... in 15 to 30 years. The same 15 to 30 years
that we were saying 15 to 30 years ago
- I know because I was there.  It doesn't work. It never worked and it
never will work.

No matter how well intentioned the scale of the project is simply far
too large. In a recent project I supervised in Puerto Rico we got a NEH
grant to digitize about 5000 hours of radio content. It took a couple of
years, a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and it got done
- and these tapes were in very bad shape. The shock for me was that we
could not fine a single - not one - young person (under 30) who before
the project even knew what a 1/4" audio tape or tape recorder was - no
less know how to run one. Sure they knew how to run a DAW and station
automation systems, but not one had any experience with Analog tape.  
Why would they?

Did we teach them? Sure. But there are no jobs for them now, and I doubt
that they will be able to use that knowledge again anywhere.  
They have all moved on to jobs in digital environments.There were much
bigger issues that we ran up against. How do you train someone doing
this work to recognize the difference between line hum that was
"expected" in the recording and line hum that is a problem? How do you
train the operators who are doing this work to recognize Analog print
through when they do not really even understand the concept of analog
noise in a digital recording? Azimuth problems in the audio when you
have only heard MP3? The problems are really much deeper then there not
being any Studer parts around any more. There are layers of issues that
are largely ignored, because as Al Gore might say - it is an
inconvenient truth.

The reality that no one wants to face, is that the scale of the
generation and collection of these materials was so much larger in scale
that the approaches being taken now to digitize them as to make the
process totally and completely impossible. Instead of concentrating on
chilling we need to concentrate on digitizing on massive scales, and
that isnt going to happen using single $80,000 quadrega workstations
with single Studer decks in academic labs with an audio engineer and 2
college interns. The window has largely closed. A few may survive - but
the window has closed for almost all.

So now, considering this concept. What precisely do we choose to do?  
Do we continue to try to save "everything" which in my opinion is clear
folly - or do we develop some other selection tools and methodology and
get to work on an entirely different scale then we have before? Do we
raise the white flag and say - ok lets get real - there are far more of
them then us, so we need a different approach.  
Let's no longer whimper about 100,000 hours of everything in one
collection to save. AIATSIS may be able to do that, but they are but a
grain of sand. The issue is trying to save 100,000 hours out of the 100
million that will not make it.

Jim Lindner

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On Oct 29, 2009, at 9:39 PM, Mark Campbell wrote: