Friday, March 11, 2005

An internship by any other name...

And now my progress report for my Archives internship.

I never know how to refer to it as. To some groups, I call it a Recording Services internship because it's under the Recording Services section of the Archives of Traditional Music. More generally, I might call it a "audio preservation/technology/recording/digitization" internship--or something similar.

Most of the activities I do involve surveying recordings, transferring analog recordings to the digital realm, creating documentation of content and material conditions for the Archives. It's not an archival internship in the traditional manner, so I tend to think of it more in the preservation realm.

And there is the fact that I'm not doing "preservation" of the actual recordings. That's done by Mike, who's the Coordinator of Recording Services. You need to be an audio engineer for many years to be qualified for this sort of work. What I'm doing is reformatting for access. If there is any problems, then I contact Mike. But ya' gotta' start somewhere.

Today I attended the Noontime Lecture series lecture on world music marketing and promotion. A local proprietor of a world music marketing firm called "Rock, Paper, Scissors" talked about what he is does, how he got to do what he does, and the industry of commercial "world music." (A vague term which he didn't get into, suffice it to say, it is an artifical genre). The talk was interesting, and it was nice to meet a PR person who cares so much about the back story of the music instead of how many CDs or tracks he can sell for his client. (Well he does, it's just his approach).

Over the last few weeks, I have been absorbed in a transfer of 5 inch original tapes of Finnish language material from immigrants in Canada collected by Matt T. Salo (67-147-F ATL). Most of it is spoken, so I'm having a lot of problems following the content index that was in this collection. Soon we'll have ATLs for the Listening Library. Here's the IUCAT record for the Salo collection:

Title: [Canada, Ontario and United States, Ohio, Finns, 1967] [sound recording] / collected by Matt T. Salo.
Physical description: 23 sound tape reels : analog, 7 1/2 ips, 2 track ; 5 in. + tape documentation
Performer: Various informants who emigrated to Canada from Finland ca. 1900-1930.
Recording info.: Recorded during the summer of 1967 by Salo in Port Arthur, Silver Mountain, and Lappe, Ontario and Ashtabula, Ohio.
Notes: Finnish folklore and folk-songs.
In Finnish and English [not indicated in documentation].
Accompanied by a complete tape catalog in English ([50] leaves).
Deposited at the Archives of Traditional Music by Salo in 1967 under option 3.
Local note: OT 5" 654--676
Summary: A large collection containing personal histories, customs, folk medicine, legends, memorates, magical practices and superstitions, rhymes, tales, lullabies, holiday customs, ballads, folk-songs, proverbs, broadsides, wedding customs, stories about other ethnic groups, information on material culture, children's songs, riddles, games, and poems.

I can usually tell if there's a song, or there are more than two people on one side. To playback one track of a 5", 600 ft. reel recorded at 3.75 inches per second takes about 32 minutes. So I can't get through many on my 3-4 hour shifts. Tuesdays are usually my most productive day. I think I transferred about 3 or 4 tracks that day. Of course, you can't just put a tape onto the reel and start it.

At least, we don't in the Archives. I check the condition of the tape to make sure there are no physical problems like windowing, curling, ridges, or flange pack. We had several with ridges last week that Mike put on a special OTR machine to find at a special "library wind" speed. Mostly, it's been pretty routine. I have to check to see if there is content at the beginning or ending of the tape which is to be wound onto the takeup reel. If it's too close, I have to splice some leader tape onto the end of it. Mike's said some of my splices have been very good. :-)

Then I have to listen to a good portion of it to set sound levels for the OTR machine and the output to the computer. Mr. Salo is often much louder than the people he's interviewing--which is frustrating. The weirdest things make sound levels peak. You'd think it would be the high note in the music, or a loud section; but more often than not on these, it's the voices speaking. They say a word or a phrase just a certain way and the meters go a'flyin.

It's been important for me to get a lot of hands-on experience with open reel tape, esp. since it was presumed to be the archival medium of choice before we entered the digital era. There are boxes and boxes of this stuff sitting in libraries. Unique materials, and often poorly documented that need to be preserved. Experience with materials and equipment that have been thought obsolete will make me more valuable for future projects that involve digitization. We're not YET in the era where everything is "born digital."

After the break, Mike will have some preservation-related readings for me to do on audio archives. I'm impressed that he's really thought this through. Meanwhile, I have to finish my trends and issues paper for preservation class. It'll be on Sticky Shed Syndrome (SSS) in magnetic tape. The technical term is "binder hydrolosis." As Jake has mentioned in class, hydrolosis is a pretty common thing to happen to things that are stored well. The current solution: bake the tape in a convection oven. Mmmm...tape.


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