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I'd actually choose a hybrid approach of treating them both as born digital files and as archival audio documents. I'd preserve the original mp3s as is, but I'd also use whatever preservation strategy you are already using for digital audio files. If you are archiving audio files as wave files on servers or on data tapes I'd store them in whatever format you already store audio in. (That being said, I wouldn't blow them up to 96/24, but I would probably blow them up to wave files or some sort). Your ease of migration down the road will be much easier if you are storing audio in a limited number of formats. I also don't think it's necessary to archive everything at 96/24 just because some report said to. It's overkill for most everything except professionally recorded musical content and I think a dual standard is fine.

The other consideration is that these radio shows probably did not originate as mp3 files and a better format may exist. As an archivist, I'd try to work with the originator of the content to get something closer to the source, but perhaps you've already been down that road and mp3 is all you could get.

I know of one radio archive that archives (or did archive) programs by taking mp3 files of programming and copying them to open reel tape. While absurd on the face of it, if open reel tape is how you've been doing things for 40 years and you haven't yet made the transition to a server-based repository, I believe this is more archivally sound practice than sticking the files on some hard drive that isn't in a managed data environment.

David Seubert

Mike Richter wrote:
Craig Breaden wrote:
Although the majority of materials I deal with in my archive are analogue or
standard 44.1/16 digital, I'm beginning to see some compressed audio come
through the doors. My archive recently receive 300 data CDs, each
containing 2-4 hours worth of MP3 files of a radio talk show. I have some
basic questions, and all answers are welcome.

In treating them as an archival resource (facilitating preservation and
access), do I:

1) Consider them in somewhat the same way that I'd treat electronic records,
i.e. that they are digitally born (since no other copy exists) "documents"
that require a combination of software and hardware to play back and will
periodically need refreshing or even migration to other formats to continue
to represent their content? (This is really the devil's advocate question,
realizing especially that migration would probably force a recompression).

2) Treat them as I would an analogue sound resource, and render them, silly
as it may sound, to 96/24 for preservation purposes, and render from this
file to the various derivatives.

3) Transfer them to gold CD and just keep an eye on what's happening with
mp3, while monitoring their playability occasionally?

The essential thing to remember is that they are files just like any other files one might deal with. The fact that they represent audio and with proper hardware and software reproduce sound is interesting but irrelevant.

1. Exactly so, except that recompression is neither useful nor required.

2. Not at all.

3. Not exactly. Transfer them *as files* to other media as required. Monitor the storage for development of errors as with any other digital files. Copy as inspired.

Again, you will be doing the best for/by the format when you ignore that the files may be interpreted as audio. Of course, if someone wants to listen to the audio on conventional hardware, provision should be made to prepare a copy in an appropriate form. That may be as MP3 files, as another compressed format of file, as DVD-A, as CD-DA, as magnetic tape --- but you get the idea.


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