US Historical Audio Recordings Fading

The first comprehensive study of the preservation of sound recordings in the U.S.,co-authored by Rob Bamberger, mandated by Congress preservation law (2000) released by the Library of Congress a month ago. The study found that many of recent US historical recordings can’t be accessed by the public or they have been already lost (e.g. most of radio’s first decade from 1925 to 1935) .  Yet, old analog formats are physically stable and can survive longer than contemporary digital recordings although the rapid change in technology to play them back can  make them obsolete. The problem with newer digital files is constant maintenance and back up which requires active preservation and not simple placing files on a shelf.

Actually, the report notes that newer materials that born-digital audio are at greater risk of loss than older recordings, such as 78-rpm discs; that there is a lack of a comprehensive program to preserve born-digital audio; and that open-reel preservation tapes made in the 1970s and 1980s are deteriorating faster than older tape recordings.

For more findings from the report, review the appendix at www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/PR10-194SRstudyAppendixwithkeyfindings.pdf and the introduction/executive summary at www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/CLIRpub148Intro.pdf.

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