Audio Preservation

This page was originally created by the PARS Recording and Photographic Media Committee
of the American Library Association. Hannah Frost served as Associate Editor until Nov 2011

See also

Collection Assessment
Format and Sound Recording History
Standards, Guidelines, and Best Practices
Bibliographic Resources
Digital Audio: Guides, Formats, Books & Articles, Projects, Standards
Organizations Concerned With Audio Preservation
Mailing Lists
Audio Preservation Resources at Other Sites


Council on Library and Information Resources
CLIR publishes many reports on, among other topics, fundamental issues in audio preservation and recent related research and activities.
pub137 Capturing Analog Sound for Digital Preservation: Report of a Roundtable Discussion of Best Practices for Transferring Analog Discs and Tapes. March 2006.
pub135 Copyright Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Pre-1972 Commercial Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives by June M. Besek. December 2005.
pub133 Survey of Reissues of U.S. Recordings by Tim Brooks. August 2005.
pub128 Survey of the State of Audio Collections in Academic Libraries by Abby Smith, David Randal Allen, and Karen Allen. August 2004.
pub121 Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists by Fred R. Byers. October 2003.
pub106 Building a National Strategy for Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving. Various contributors. April 2002.
pub96 Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis. Report of the conference on audio preservation, rights management, and intellectual acess held at Library of Congress in December 2000. May 2001. Contents include:
pub95 Preservation Science Survey: An Overview of Recent Developments in Research on the Conservation of Selected Analog Library and Archival Materials by Henk J. Porck and René Teygeler. Includes a chapter on magnetic tape. December 2000
pub54 Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives by John Van Bogart. December 2000.
International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives
Guidelines on the Production and Digitization of Digital Audio Objects. August 2004. IASA-TC04 Technical Committee on Standards, Recommended Practices, and Strategies.

The Sub-Committee on Technology of the Memory of the World Programme of UNESCO recommends these guidelines as best practice for Audio-visual Archives. Print version available for purchase.

Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage: Ethics, Principles and Preservation Strategy (PDF), IASA-TC 03, version 3, 2005.

Library of Congress
Cylinder, Disc, and Tape Care in a Nutshell

National Archives and Records Administration
Sound Recordings Procedures Manual

From 1993, "this manual prescribes ... procedures that cover unique aspects of accessioning, storing, preserving, and duplicating sound recordings in the custody of NARA."

Save Our Sounds
Preserving Sound Recordings
A general description of the preservation concerns related to sound recording formats.

Sound Directions: Digital Preservation and Access for Global Audio Heritage
Best Practices for Audio Preservation

Published by Harvard University and Indiana University, this is a comprehensive resource on the current state of audio preservation. Information for curators, collection managers, audio archivists, audio engineers, and anyone involved in building digital libraries. Includes sample metadata documents and software tools.

Proceedings from the Symposium
Links to papers presented at the University of Texas at Austin, July 24-26, 2003.

Unlocking Audio: Sharing Experience of Mass DIgitization
Selected proceedings from the symposium held at the British Library in London, UK on October 26-27, 2007.

Collection Assessment

Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University
FACET (Field Audio Collection Evaluation Tool)

"The Field Audio Collection Evaluation Tool (FACET) is a point-based, open-source software tool that ranks audio field collections based on preservation condition, including the level of deterioration they exhibit and the degree of risk they carry."

Columbia University Libraries
Survey Instrument for Audio and Moving Image Collections.
"The survey [tool] provides a mechanism for setting preservation priorities based on (1) quantities and types of audio and moving image materials, (2) the physical condition of the media and their housings based on visual inspection, (3) information about existing levels of intellectual control and intellectual property rights, and (4) the potential research value of each collection."
New York University Libraries
ViPIRS (Visual & Playback Inspection Ratings System)
" ... a freely accessible database for the moving image and sound preservation community that will be structured to serve as a comprehensive archival audio/visual inventory, assessment, and preservation prioritization tool."

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries
Audio-Visual Self-Assessment Program (AVSAP) and Another AVSAP resource)

The AVSAP tool "will provide assessors with basic guidelines on reformatting and rehousing needs, long-term storage and the potential ability for the reformatted media to be mounted on the Internet"

AV Artifact Atlas (AVAA)

"The AV Artifact Atlas is for use in the identification and definition of the technical issues and anomalies that can afflict audio and video signals.

"The goal of AVAA is to advance the audiovisual archiving field generally by strengthening the practice of reformatting archival media content. Archivists can improve the outcomes of their media preservation efforts if they can properly identify and characterize signal issues and anomalies. With a tool to facilitate building a vocabulary of terms and supporting examples, archivists will learn and be able to communicate about the problems with more clarity and understanding. With this understanding, it is more likely that fixable problems will be fixed, limited resources will be directed more appropriately, and the products of reformatting workflows will be of higher quality.

"The idea to create a community-based, online resource emerged while a group of media archivists attending the Association of Moving Image Archivists 2010 annual meeting were discussing quality control over vegetarian po'boy sandwiches at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. We were frustrated by the lack of an accessible resource covering these issues, one that can be used to support and inform quality control processes in archival media reformatting workflows. We realized that if we gathered together our clipped examples of media issues, pooling our knowledge on the subject, and then shared it as a community resource using wiki software, we might begin to fill the glaring gap.

"Partners in the effort to bring about the AV Artifact Atlas include: Bay Area Video Coalition, New York University Digital Library Technology Services, and Stanford Media Preservation Lab.

Formats and Sound Recording History

Mike Casey
Format Characteristics and Preservation Problems". high resolution version. Version 1.0

Delos A. Eilers
Introduction to 3M Audio Open Reel Tape List">3M Audio Open Reel Tape List

Sarah Stauderman
Guide to Audio Formats

Steve Schoenherr
Recording Technology History

Standards, Guidelines, and Best Practices

Audio Engineering Society Standards Committee
Standards in Draft/Print.

Provides links to free single-copy downloads of PDF documents, including:

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
Standards Relating to Telecommunications, Audio and Video Engineering

National Screen and Sound Archive (formerly ScreenSound Australia)
Caring for Audio

Bibliographic Resources

Robin Dale, Janet Gertz, Richard Peek, Mark Roosa
Audio Preservation: A Selective Annotated Bibliography and Brief Summary of Current Practices
Sound Recordings -- Conservation and Restoration

Library of Congress Preservation Directorate
Research and Testing Publications
Preservation Research Reports

These provide a listings of printed reports which are available at no charge to the public upon request. Several address audiovisual materials specifically, including the most recent report issued in February 2002, "Bibliography on the Preservation of Magnetic Media" by Gerald D. Gibson.

Public Record Office (UK)
An Introduction to New Media

A useful history of "new media," defined as any medium requiring the use of a machine to access information recorded on it, with a particular focus on sound recording media. Includes a glossary and bibliography.

Society of American Archivists (SAA)
Recorded Sound Roundtable

"The roundtable serves as a forum for discussing archival issues related to the creation, management, preservation, and use of audio and audiovisual resources in archives and other cultural heritage repositories."

Recorded Sound Round Table Newsletter
(hosted by Safe Sound Archive; includes links to other pertinent articles)

Books and Articles

Association for Recorded Sound Collections. Associated Audio Archives Committee.
Audio Preservation: A Planning Study -- Final Performance Report. (Silver Spring, MD: Association for Recorded Sound Collections). Report resulting from an NEH-funded survey conducted 1986-1987. Includes glossary and bibliography. 1987.

Audio Engineering Society
Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, July/August 2001 Supplementary Journal Material. Selected articles available in PDF format from this issue devoted to archiving, restoration, and digital libraries. Includes a list of Internet resources.

George Brock-Nannestad
The Rationale Behind Operational Conservation Theory, 2000
Presented at Conservation Without Limits, IIC Nordic Group XV Congress 23-26 August 2000, Helsinki, Finland and printed in the PREPRINTS (Editor Riitta Koskivirta) pp 21-33.

CBC Engineering Operations Department
Recommended Practice for the Care, Handling and Storage of CBC A/V Magnetic Media. (Montreal: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Extensive coverage of practices related to the care of AV magnetic media. c1990.

Margaret S. Child
Directory of Information Sources on Scientific Research Related to the Preservation of Sound Recordings, Still and Moving Images, and Magnetic Tape. (Washington, D.C.: Commission on Preservation and Access). Sources of information include the names of laboratories and organizations, databases, serials, monographs and articles, and conference proceedings. 1993.

Eddie Ciletti
"If I Knew You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Tape!"
An explanation of the tape baking process used by some to temporarily counteract the effects of Sticky Shed Syndrome.

Peter Copeland
"What Should a Sound Archive Really Do?" In Care of Photographic, Moving Image and Sound Collections: Conference Papers, York, England, July 20-24, 1998, edited by Susie Clark (Worcestershire: Insitute of Paper Conservation): 11-12. 1999.

Edward F. Cuddihy
"Stability and Preservation of Magnetic Tape." In Proceedings of Conservation in Archives. International Symposium, Ottawa, Canada, May 10-12, 1988 (Ottawa: National Archives of Canada): 191-206. Considers environmental conditions considered safe for tape use and storage. 1989.

Sarah Cunningham
The Preservation of Analog Oral History Collections through Digitization
Jim Farrington
"Preventive Maintenance for Audio Discs and Tapes." In Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association vol. 48, no. 2: 437-445. Includes incformation about best environmental conditions for maintenance of audio media. December 1991.

Gerald D. Gibson
"Preservation and Conservation of Sound Recordings." In Conserving and Preserving Materials in Nonbook Formats. Edited by Kathryn Luther Henderson and William T. Henderson (Urbana-Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science): 27-44. Discusses sound recordings materials, cleaning, and storage. Appendices provide information on weight and space requirements, recommended storage materials, and vendors for supplies. 1991.

Helen P. Harrison, ed.
Audiovisual Archives: A Practical Reader. Compiled for the General Information Programme and UNISIST under the auspices of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Section VII includes: "Preservation of Audio and Video Materials in Tropical Countries" and "Strategies for the Safeguarding of Audio and Video Materials in the Long Term" by Dietrich Schüller, Phonogrammarchiv, Vienna. Section XII includes "Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery in Audiovisual Collections" by Gerald D. Gibson, Library of Congress, Washington DC. 1997.

Richard Hess
"The Jack Mullin/Bill Palmer Tape Restoration Project". In Journal of the Audio Engineering Society vol. 49 no. 7-8: 671-674. Chronicles the restoration of perhaps the oldest extant magnetic tapes. 2001.

See also Hess's blog, which contains extensive information on formats, restoration, and more.

Ken Howarth
"Handling and Care of Modern Audio Tape." In Care of Photographic, Moving Image and Sound Collections: Conference Papers, York, England, July 20-24, 1998, edited by Susie Clark (Worcestershire: Insitute of Paper Conservation): 172-176. 1999.

John C. Mallinson
"Magnetic Tape Recording: History, Evolution and Archival Considerations." In Proceedings of Conservation in Archives, International Symposium, Ottawa, Canada, May 10-12, 1988 (Ottawa: National Archives of Canada): 181-190. Notes concerns for the stability of tapes (audio, video, computer) and for the future availability of the equipment for use with these tapes. 1989.

The Midwestern Archivist
Volume XVI, number 1 is devoted to audio preservation topics. 1991.

David Morton
Off the Record: The Technology and Culture of Sound Recording in America. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press). 2000.

Brenda Nelson-Strauss
"Preservation Policies and Priorities for Recorded Sound Collections." In Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association vol. 48, no. 2. 1991.

Christopher Ann Paton, Stephanie E. Young, Harry P. Hopkins, and Robert B. Simmons
"A Review and Discussion of Selected Acetate Disc Cleaning Methods: Anecdotal, Experimential and Investigative Findings." In ARSC Journal vol. 28, no 1: 1-23. 1997.

A.G. Pickett and M.M. Lemcoe
Preservation and Storage of Sound Recordings. (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress). 1959. This seminal report, detailing the findings of a study initiated by the Library of Congress on the degradation of phonographs and tapes, was re-printed by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections in 1991.

Mark Roosa
Recorded Sound Preservation: Selected Bibliography

Steven Smolian
"Preservation, Deterioration, and Restoration of Recording Tape." In ARSC Journal vol. 19, no. 2-3: 37-53. 1989.

Gilles St. Laurent
The Care and Handling of Recorded Sound Materials. (Washington, D.C.: Commission on Preservation and Access). Outlines problems and offers advice for the care and storage of various types of recordings including discs, tapes, CDs, etc. 1996.

Howard M. Tremaine
Audio Cyclopedia. Indianapolis: Howard W. Sams & Co. 1979.

Alan Ward
A Manual of Sound Archive Administration. (Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, Vermont, USA: Gower). Includes a chapter on the preservation of sound archives, and model codes of practice for storage and handling. 1990.

Richard Warren Jr.
"Storage of Sound Recordings." In ARSC Journal vol. 24, no 2: 130-175. 1993.
"Handling of Sound Recordings." In ARSC Journal vol. 25, no 2: 139-162. 1994.

Digital Audio


Arts and Humanities Data Service
Preservation Handbook: Digital Audio. Contains a lot of solid technical information in easy-to-understand language. July 2005.

BCR Collaborative Digitization Program (CDP)
Digital Audio Best Practices. A package of resources on best practices, conversion, workflow, and metadata.

Nick Fells, Pauline Donachy, and Catherine Owen
Creating Digital Audio Resources: A Guide to Good Practice. (Oxford: Oxbow Press). Produced by The Performing Arts Data Service, a part of The Arts and Humanities Data Service in the UK. "A basic 'how to' for those using audio materials in the creation of digital resources. The guide addresses issues of [UK] copyright, the choice of appropriate equipment, presenting and delivering audio material, data management and methodological procedure." Also offers a thorough introduction to preservation and documentation issues. 2002.

The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials
While chapter seven specifically addresses "Audio/Video Capture and Management", other sections of this guide provide information relevant to digital audio and preservation, such as the appendices on equipment, metadata, digital data capture by sampling and a very extensive bibliography. Produced by the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), University of Glasgow, and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH). 2002.

Audiotape Digitization Workflow

File Formats

Audio Interchange Standards (Note: This URL points to the Diffuse site preserved by the Internet Archive in June 2003.). Includes AIFF, MIDI, MPEGs, WAVE, and more

European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
Technical Specification 3285: Broadcast Wave Format: a format for audio data files in broadcasting, Version 1, July 2001
See also:
John Emmett. "Five Years in the History of Audio Files". In EBU Technical Review. December 2000.
R. Chalmers. "The Broadcast Wave Format: an introduction". In EBU Technical Review. Winter 1997.

Florida Center for Library Automation
Digital Archive Action Plans
Format Information
AIFF - Action plan
AIFF - Background report
WAVE - Action plan
WAVE - Background Report

JHOVE (JSTOR/Harvard Object Validation Environment)
"JSTOR and the Harvard University Library are collaborating on a project to develop an extensible framework for format validation: JHOVE (pronounced 'jove'), the JSTOR/Harvard Object Validation Environment. JHOVE provides functions to perform format-specific identification, validation, and characterization of digital objects." A very useful Java-based tool in digital preservation activities. Among the file formats that JHOVE can interrogate are: AIFF and WAVE.

Library of Congress / National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program
Format Descriptions for Sound
Craig Sapp
The Canonical WAVE Format

Books and Articles

Frank Beacham
"Archivists Warn: Don't Depend on Digital Tape."

Samuel Brylawski
"Preservation of Digitally Recorded Sound." In Building a National Strategy for Preservation: Issues in Digital Media Archiving. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources. 2002.

Vitaliy Fadeyev, Carl Haber, et al.
Audio Reconstruction of Mechanically-Recorded Sound by Digital Processing of Metrological Data
Paper presented at the AIC Electronic Media Group 2004 meeting in Portland, Oregon.
Alternate version submitted to Journal of the Audio Engineering Society.

Jim Kennedy
Preserving History: How to Digitally Archive and Share Historical Photographs, Documents, and Audio Recordings

Much of the work covers imaging but chapters concerning audio include:

William A. Penn and Martha J. Hanson
"The Syracuse University Library Radius Project: Development of a non-destructive playback system for cylinder recordings"
In First Monday vol. 8, no. 5. May 2003.

Ken C. Pohlmann
Principles of Digital Audio. (New York: McGraw-Hill). Third edition, 1995.

Michael Seadle
"Sound Practice: A Report of the Best Practices for Digital Sound Meeting." In RLG DigiNews vol. 5, no. 2. A summary of discussions held by "about forty people from around the country [who] met at the Library of Congress (LC) on the last day of the American Library Association's 2001 midwinter meeting to discuss best practices for digital sound." 2001.

Dietrich Schüller
"Preserving the Facts for the Future: Principles and Practices for the Transfer of Analog Audio Documents into the Digital Domain." Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, Volume 49 Number 7/8, July/August 2001.

John Watkinson
The Art of Digital Audio. (Boston: Focal Press). A thorough manual on the technical aspects of digital audio. Addresses the physics of sound as well as conversion by sampling, compression, optical disks, sound quality considerations, and much, much more. Third edition, 2001.

Colin Webb and Kevin Bradley
"Preserving Oral History Collections." In Ariadne: The Web Version vol. 8. A "look at some of the practical realities, and implications, of introducing digital technology into the sound preservation funcations of the National Library of Australia." March 1997.


CCRMA, Stanford University
Edison Revisited and the William H. "Cigar Bill" Nieman Sr. Collection of Historical Recordings

Harvard University
Loeb Music Library Audio Preservation Studio

Indiana University
Variations2 aims to establish a digital music library testbed system containing music in a variety of formats, involving research and development in the areas of system architecture, metadata standards, component-based application architecture, and network services.

Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music and Harvard University Loeb Music Library
Sound Directions: Digital Preservation and Access for Global Audio Heritage is a project that will develop best practices and test standards related to digital audio preservation, including metadata, packaging, quality control, workflow, files, repository storage, and more.

Library of Congress
Digital Audio-Visual Preservation Prototyping Project
Project Documents (repository design, audio specifications, metadata, etc.)

Matrix at Michigan State University
Working Paper on Digitizing Audio for the National Gallery of the Spoken Word and the African Online Digital Library

National Gallery of the Spoken Word
Project Information

University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Special Collections
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project

University of Kentucky
Eric Weig, Kopana Terry, and Kathryn Lybarger. "Large-Scale Digitization of Oral History: A Case Study". In D-Lib Magazine, vol. 13, no. 5/6, May/June 2007.


Audio Engineering Society
Standards in Print include:

Organizations Concerned With Audio Preservation

Mailing Lists

Archives in Conservation OnLine
ARSCLIST is an unmoderated mail reflector to facilitate the exchange of information on sound archives and promote communication among those interested in preserving, documenting, and making accessible the history of recorded sound. The list is sponsored by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) as a service to the archival community. Messages posted to this list do not represent the opinions of ARSC, the board of ARSC, the list owners or the host institution.
Archives in Conservation OnLine
AMIA-L is an e-mail discussion list sponsored by the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). It is intended to facilitate communication among AMIA members and professionals in related disciplines interested in issues relevant to the association, to archival issues involving all aspects of moving image materials and moving image archives, and to any related technologies or special interests of the profession. Appropriate postings from AMIA non-members are welcome, and subscription to AMIA-L is open to the public.

To subscribe to AMIA-L, send the following message to Listserv@LSV.UKY.EDU:
Subscribe AMIA-L Your Name
Archives in Conservation OnLine

Audio Preservation Resources at Other Sites

ARSC Technical Committee's Audio Preservation and Restoration Directory
A directory of ARSC members who provide preservation services or who offer audio equipment & supplies.

Stanford University Libraries
Archive of Recorded Sound

British Library
National Sound Archive

Sound and Image Collections Conservation (SOIMA) Programme, "a platform for highlighting the issues and challenges that smaller institutions face in preserving sound and image materialss"

Journal of the Audio Engineering Society
Supplemental Journal Material developed by the AES Technical Committee on Archiving, Restoration, and Digital Libraries

Library of Congress
Recorded Sound Reference Center

National Library of Australia
Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI): Audio and Audiovisual Material
Dedicated to the preservation of early recorded sounds

University of Washington
Audio Preservation and Restoration

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