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Re: [ARSCLIST] basic question from a newbie

Dear Ed,

The general direction of large collection archiving is to store everything in managed servers with off-site backup. We can call that many things, including "digital repository" and "trusted digital archive".

For a collection of your size, the options for disk-based or tape-based off-site backup are both viable. The primary storage would be a robust disk drive system.

Selecting collection management software is a big hurdle and I have no recommendations in that area.

IASA standards state that a minimum of 48,000 samples per second should be used when digitizing and most of us adhere to the 24-bit recommendation as well. As IASA says, "some material would benefit from higher sample rates". This would be high-quality music and drama recordings, not "announce booth" or small-studio readings.

I think the consensus is that the material which is already digitized at other sample rates and bit depths (as long as they are very common ones like 44,100 samples per second and 16 bits (CD and some DAT)) should be ingested into the digital repository in their native format. This may invite differing opinions.

Storing the material as WAV files in the digital repository is also the accepted standard. MP3 and other compressed files may be generated at the same time in order to provide lower-bit-rate access copies.

I have some hopefully useful information at www.richardhess.com/notes/ and you can read about the tape digitization and restoration work I do at www.richardhess.com/tape/

There are lists of resources on the ARSC web site ( www.arsc-aurio.org ). One of the most useful resources is the IASA TC-04 document (available from IASA), at least for the technical side of audio digitization.

In order to help you go through the collection and prioritize sub-portions, the FACET tool from Indiana University is quite useful as it helps to identify and quantify risks to the collection. That, and the documents from the Sound Directions project are available here:

Many of us here can answer specific questions. We each have our own areas of experience.

A few of my "soapbox" items are:
- Get as good a playback as possible -- this is the last time the tape will be played
- Don't destroy/dispose of the original analog tapes
- Just because person A can't play the tape doesn't mean person B can't as well.

A note on the last point: the hard disk drive I ranted about here a few weeks ago was unrecoverable both by CBL and DriveSavers. Most likely because of a well-intentioned, but ill-advised opening of the drive by a computer "consultant" prior to sending it to CBL. If you're not sure of the recovery method and you think something is wrong in any media, don't "guess" and don't take steps that may make the situation worse.

My summary paper of tape degradation factors was recently published in the ARSC Journal and now is online at

Good luck with a worthwhile and exciting project!



At 04:25 PM 2009-01-05, Morman, Ed wrote:
Dear experts on recorded sound preservation,

The National Federation of the Blind owns thousands, if not tens of
thousands, of hours of sound recordings that we need to preserve in the
most efficient way, while still having ready access to them.  All of our
current recording is done digitally, and stored on MAM-A professional
grade gold CDs.  Our collections extend back to the 1950s and include
reel-to-reel and cassette masters, as well as digital audio tape and
other digitized recordings on CDs.  Much of the digitization of the
older material was done haphazardly.

As you can imagine, the sound archives are quite important to an
organization of blind people.  We would like retrospectively to insure
that all our recordings are digitized professionally and stored in a
little space as possible given concerns for preservation.

We recently joined ARSC, and I signed up for this listserv in order to
learn from folks in the sound preservation enterprise.

Any advice you can provide will be much appreciated!

I thank you in advance.

Ed Morman

Edward T. Morman, MSLS, PhD

Director, Jacobus tenBroek Library


1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore MD 21230

410.659.9314 x2225

410.6595129 (fax)

Richard L. Hess email: richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.

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