From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


Marie, you wrote a good situation report on acetate tape. But you also made 
this statement of a philosophical nature, and it goes right to the centre of 
the idea of archiving.

> Thoughts - we are only human and as we get older can we possibly listen to
> all that is offered?

----- actually it is not us who are going to listen to the various transfers. 
That will be endless generations of seekers of information and enjoyment. 
They will want breadth in the collection, the ability of the collection to 
provide a relevant sound, irrespective of the context the end user is seeking 
it in. Honestly, I think that they will thank breadth more than quality. 
Although we are proud of our almost forensic skills in extracting the maximum 
of signal, and preserving it in a quality decided by the deficiencies rather 
than primary content of the recording, I think that far too much time is 
being spent on transfers. A factor 30 (30 minutes of work for one minute of 
recording) is not unknown in archive circles, and it is madness, if a useful 
transfer can be done at a factor 10. Three times as much can be preserved! I 
fully realize that in order to be able to prepare a continuous tape for 
transfer a lot of cleaning and replacing of splices has to take place. But 
why would you want to re-splice two pieces of tape if they are a minute long 
each? Why not keep track of the bits and transfer the smaller pieces, to be 
joined at any later stage and to any desired quality in the digital domain? 
Ah, then you need leader tape at both ends. Yes, but these particular splices 
will only have to withstand one play! I think that economy of time may be 
made. But azimuth still has to be corrected at the time of transfer.

The linear listening means that finding a poorly indexed recording will 
require very much time when searching for relevant material. I doubt that 
future seekers will have the patience. The time spent on transfer could 
probably be better spent at indexing. Listening 1:1 and writing down keywords 
and other identifiers against a timecode is still only a factor 1! But 
probably that is not good use of technically trained transfer specialists, 
but there should be lots of summer jobs for budding oral historians.

I really think that we let the ideal stand in the way of the doable. I was 
almost lynched when I stated something like this at the IASA Conference in 
Vienna 1999, but I think that we need to rethink the idea of archiving for 
the future. We will get no support from politicians who want society to have 
a short memory, and an edited one at that. Try asking historians instead. I 
am quite convinced that they would rather have authenticated copies in less 
than mint-appearing quality than no copies at all, due to deselection because 
of capacity problems. 

Just my 2 cents worth (but at a factor 30 it is 60 cents!).

Kind regards,