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Audio Preservation Gets a Boost

Donation to National Recording Preservation Foundation seen as “game-changer”

The National Recording Preservation Foundation now has enough money to prepare to hand out grants.

Board member Jack White donated $200,000, an amount NRPF Executive Director Gerald Seligman calls a game-changer, allowing the group to go from talk to action. “With this contribution we can now put up our basic structure, begin enacting the preservation plan — and give out our first grants. We’re committed to doing that right away, and certainly within the coming months.”

The group intends to digitize recordings and make them available to the public. Congress laid the groundwork for the preservation of historic audio recordings when lawmakers passed the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000; that authorized the NRPF.

But the effort has been slow-going. NRPB Chairman Sam Brylawski says the challenges to accomplishing preservation “at a significant scale are daunting.” He hopes White’s donation will inspire others, especially those in the recording profession — record companies, artists, songwriters for example.

The nonprofit organization aims to stem the flow of losses from time and nature to America’s radio, music and recorded audio. Sound archives are rapidly deteriorating and have reached a critical point, according to board member George Massenburg, a producer, Grammy-winning recording engineer and educator. Most sound archivists believe analog-based preservation methods are no longer viable and digital methodologies must be developed.

In addition to music, the group aims to preserve radio, broadcast, speeches, poets, spoken word, oral histories, field recordings. Congress created the group to support archives, libraries and cultural institutions.