The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States

Cover of PDF report: The State of Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age, by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress Catching up now that I’m back from a family reunion: The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age. What is happening to our collection of sound recordings now that we’re turning the corner to digital formats? This August 2010 publication is published by the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Library of Congress.

Background, as stated by Librarian of Congress: A collection of “disturbing anecdotal evidence” described the thread to sound recordings (dating back to the 19th century) came to the attention of Congress, which passed the The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-474). That law directed that the Librarian of Congress “…implement a comprehensive national sound recording preservation program…” and study the issues that need to be addressed in order to preserve our national heritage in sound recordings. This publication is part of the result.

Spools of blank CDs and DVDs, with envelopes and special marker pens (A photo taken while unpacking from the family reunion trip. Very on-topic for matters of Digital Preservation.)

From the abstract:

This is the first comprehensive, national-level study of the state of sound recording preservation ever conducted in the U.S. The authors, Rob Bamberger and Sam Brylawski, have produced a study outlining the web of interlocking issues that now threaten the long-term survival of our sound recording history. This study tells us that major areas of America’s recorded sound heritage have already been destroyed or remain inaccessible to the public. It suggests that the lack of conformity between federal and state laws may adversely affect the long-term survival of pre-1972-era sound recordings in particular. And, it warns that the continued lack of national coordination among interested parties in the public and private sectors, in addressing the challenges in preservation, professional education and public access, may not yet be arresting permanent loss of irreplaceable sound recordings in all genres. [Read More or download PDF at this link]

I have not yet read the report, but plan to do so with an eye to how these matters affect the Do-it-Yourself Family Historian.

It looks to be deep and comprehensive (181 pages). It addresses preservation of public (institutional) and private (that would include the personal family attic) collections of audio. It’s deeply technical, addressing myriad aspects of preservation. It delves into legal matters, and how copyright law makes preservation a more difficult task. Plus, I’m sure that there’s more than I’ve been able to glean from looking at the introduction of the report. 

Image from the road trip I just took to attend a family reunion. It's also a metaphor for the upcoming month, sine there's another trip on the horizon. This and next month are pretty busy for me (I just returned from that wonderful family reunion—10-10-10 was the sequel to our 05-05-05 reunion—and I will be attending (and presenting at) the Association of Personal Historians Conference). So it’ll be a while before I get a chance to delve into the report. If you’re intrigued, by all means, download it and take a look yourself.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 14, 2010 in • DigitalityVideo
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