this series of blog posts I’m taking note of specific recommendations in the new
National Recording Preservation Plan issued by the Library of Congress, which
touches not only on radio but on audio in general and its place in our cultural
history. (I noted last time that the report calls for a concerted effort to
preserve radio audio.)
More broadly, Recommendation 1.7 deals with technologies
for audio preservation. The report says we need more research into ways to recover, reformat and preserve audio recording media.
“Some problems presented by the large amount and
fragile condition of audio media requiring preservation can be resolved only
through research initiatives that lead to new technologies,” it states.
“It is essential to develop technologies that can be used to
efficiently reformat the vast quantities of recorded sound residing in major
archival collections before their carriers degrade. Scientific research must be
encouraged to determine the life expectancy of all formats as well as to find
effective ways to slow down the deterioration process and recover sound from
already degraded audio carriers. Solutions that are independent of the original
recording practices, media or equipment (e.g., non-contact playback) can
mitigate impediments to preservation resulting from media deterioration and
-It calls for research to quantify the life expectancy of analog formats.
This research should aim to develop diagnostic tools for identifying endangered
media. The report notes that a division of the Library of Congress has some work
underway along these lines.
-- It recommends research including
chemical and physical analyses on “deteriorating media carriers” to recommend
better ways of handling materials, slowing degradation and improving recovery. “Scientifically
researched and developed methods to solve the problems encountered with
deteriorating media carriers are urgently needed.”
It mentioned the need to recover
audio from tapes with “sticky shed syndrome” or “binder hydrolysis” as well as the
problem of “delaminating” lacquer discs. Among other things, the library’s Preservation
Research and Testing Division should hold a workshop of experts aimed at establishing
testing criteria to ensure the quality and stability of the media on which
their data are held.
-- It encourages R&D into new ways
of recovering sound from fragile media, including non-contact playback systems,
and improving efficiencies in audio preservation. “Further research should be
undertaken to develop efficiencies in the areas of audio element preparation,
transfer methods and solutions for digital audio migration or emulation.
Studies should be encouraged to determine effective ways to increase the level
of automation used in quality review and assurance. An effort must be made to
develop cost-effective, rapid, and, where beneficial, non-contact methods for
It said the library has been working with the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory to develop imaging technology for non-contact reformatting
of audio material recorded on discs and cylinders. “Since the imaging systems do
not physically touch the playback surface, sound that had previously been
considered irretrievable can be recovered from fragile and broken media.”
-- It calls for collaboration with AES to develop better tools
and metrics “to permit the evaluation of the performance of digitizing systems (e.g.,
easy-to-use tone or signal generators, and software applications that permit
lay people to administer pass/fail tests on equipment).”
--And it recommends more collaborative research at the national and
international levels. “To this end, steps must be taken to reach out to
national and international recorded sound communities and identify
opportunities for collaborations on similar projects.
Such partnerships may
lead to a consensus on methodologies and best practices, further enhancing the
efficiencies needed to execute a preservation agenda of this scope.” It said groups
such as the AES,
Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, the Association of Moving Image
and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections can help.
The report contains much more on the topic of audio preservation; I’ll have more here soon.