Third in a series of blog
posts exploring recommendations of the new National Recording Preservation Plan
of the Library of Congress, which touches not only on radio but on audio in
general and its place in our cultural history.
Do you still
have those ancient cart machines, or old manuals for DAT machines, stacked
in the hallway closet? Soon you might be asked to register them.
The library’s plan — in addition to urging the preservation of
American commercial radio programming
and more research into ways to preserve
audio recording media
— also explores documentation of legacy technologies.
“There must be a
systematic and sustained effort to compile and collect information related to
legacy recording technology and practices: where it is, how it works and the
characteristics, or ‘audio signatures,’ of the recordings themselves,” the
“Additional efforts should be made to
thoroughly document the expertise of legacy recording practitioners. This work
can serve as the cornerstone for the development of standardized methods and
best practices for audio preservation reformatting, and will be shared through
the Audio Preservation Resource Directory [another plan recommendation] to
serve the needs of training and education.”
the library’s plan calls for:
-- A national directory of
available obsolete equipment as a resource for audio preservation and
restoration engineers. This would tell where experts could locate the gear needed
for playback and transfer of legacy recording formats.
directory should inventory obsolete or difficult-to-locate equipment in the
offices or studios of various record companies, independent studios and
independent producers,” it states. “It should list tape machines, recording
consoles and outboard gear (e.g., equalizers, reverb units), among others,
because such elements may be sought by those attempting to restore or reissue
historical recordings.” (The authors didn’t list cart machines at radio stations here; but given
that preserving old radio content is one of the plan’s explicit goals, their inclusion seems likely, along with any other audio recording formats ever used in radio ... DCC, anyone? anyone? ... Bueller...?)
“For each audio facility, the
directory should list contact information and the financial and logistical
terms on which access to the gear can be obtained.”
compilation, they envision, could be a joint project of the Association for
Recorded Sound Collections, Association of Moving Image Archivists, the
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and AES. This directory could grow
later to include an appendix “with a year-by-year or decade-by-decade list of
major formats used at different stages of the recording process, including
recording, mixing and mastering.”
-- A program to
videotape interviews and demos by senior audio engineers.
“To document recording practices used to capture sound from legacy
media, lecture demonstrations by expert practitioners should be videotaped.
They should cover older formats, playback techniques and playback systems.”
These would be developed by the library’s preservation board and made available
on the proposed Audio Preservation Resource Directory as podcasts or webcasts. I suspect this would be popular content not just for preservationists but for audio history enthusiasts.
-- A digital repository of manuals and schematics for legacy equipment.
“A coordinated effort is needed to systematically acquire
service manuals and schematics for all legacy playback equipment. It is
necessary to identify gaps in the collection, solicit donations of manuals and
request the support of manufacturers and interested archives and libraries.”
The library’s Packard Campus has begun this process.
up: Problems that digital media present to preservationists.
full report (PDF).