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Re: [ARSCLIST] Long-term/preservation audio

At 08:57 PM 6/27/2003 -0400, Mwcpc6@xxxxxxx wrote:

The question about "long term" preservation is of concern to me because of
my own situation, which may be somewhat alien to this group.

I have in my possession, and have access to, audio material which has not
been accessed by anybody for fifty years. It is unlikely to see any
maintenance in the foreseeable future.

Most, 40s-50s vintage wire recordings, film, instantaneous discs, and
tape, is in good condition and probably will not deteriorate much in the
next 50 years, however I would like to make copies to distribute in the
hope that some interest can be generated, or at least to increase the
chances that the content will be preserved.

Fifteen years ago I started making copies on "Professional" 1/4 inch tape
(7-1/2'/s half track, one pass).  Some of this material is already
unplayable without baking or other treatment.  I can relatively easily
transfer this material to CD both as .WAV and as CD audio.

The question is: is this the best that can be done under the
circumstances?  Is it even worth doing?  If the original media, perishable
as it is, will last longer than any current medium, the only reason to
make transfers is for immediate distribution.

I know of no way to put this material into any sort of database where it
will be maintained by IT professionals. Is anyone establishing an "audio
cemetery" where digital archives will receive "perpetual care"?

My observations are those of an amateur in the field and should be discounted heavily. In addition, they are heretical in the view of some, so I must trust that the Inquisition will not be reintroduced.

There is an inherent problem with the advance of technology. By the time
that durability of a medium is established, it is obsolete. We now know
that "shellac" discs have long life - but that is of little practical
interest for the archivist. We have learned that some open-reel magnetic
tape has survived well for decades, but there is no assurance that the same
formulation can be purchased today. We can guess, hope and expect (with
fingers crossed) that such digital media as CD-R will last, but by the time
we know, the formulations will have changed and any data will be
questionable at best. (Accelerated life test is dubious since there are no
models for the degradation, hence no assurance that the "acceleration" is
modelled appropriately.)

As for "perpetual care", that's costly. At the least, one would need an
institution committed to such preservation as are Stanford and Yale in
their classical vocal archives. In all likelihood, a substantial grant for
maintenance would be needed - I would guess at seven or eight figures in

The question then can be reduced to the practical. For my own purposes,
fidelity of the copy is less significant than sufficient distribution to
make the risk of ultimate disappearance slight. Thus, I transfer my
materials to CD as WAV files, then have MP3 CD-ROMs pressed and made
available; typically the pressing is 1000 pieces so that both the
durability of pressed discs and the advantage of numbers provide the
assurance I seek.

I would like to have the most valuable materials preserved without the
losses of compression and the ultimate risk that the medium will break down
or become unreadable through obsolescence. However, I made the choice long
ago; it may not be yours. In the position in which you find yourself now,
I'd urge that you digitize your existing tapes first, then capture the
remaining material in digital form. For your internal archive, save WAV
files; for dissemination to libraries of various sorts, CD-DA and/or a
compressed  should be considered.

Mike mrichter@xxxxxxx http://www.mrichter.com/

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