Monday, February 28, 2011

Digitization and Audio Preservation

Some people tout digitization as the answer to all preservation concerns.  But I have my doubts.  Within the past year, I’ve seen hard drives crash, data become mysteriously corrupted, and CDs crack.  The digital world just doesn’t look all that permanent to me.

I posed this concern to Cassandra Gallegos, Preservation Administrator at George Blood Audio and Video.  Do I really need to digitize my cassette tapes or should I just keep the tapes and make duplicate copies?  Cassandra acknowledged that my worries were legitimate but nevertheless sees an important role for digitization in audio preservation:

“The tape copy should be digitized.  Digitization remains your best defense against analog obsolescence – and it’s obsolescence and accessibility that are my two primary concerns here. Obsolescence is a big concern with any media as well as playback devices.  The cassette tape has already reached its obsolescence point with the popularity of optical media.  Playback equipment will become increasing harder to find and it will be even harder to find replacement parts for the equipment if it is to require maintenance.  CDs and digital files also have issues with obsolescence as technology advances.  Digital isn’t forever.

“The idea behind preserving audio materials is to sustain the audio essence from one media/format to the next.  My recommendation is to digitize the cassette and have the file saved to a hard drive (either on your computer or externally) and placed onto a CD for accessibility.  Copies should be stored in geographically separate locations.  Some basic metadata (preferably embedded into the header of the audio file) will also help preserve the object.

“Magnetic tape and CDs each have their own inherent vices.  The actual digital files on the CD will be the easiest to sustain.  By this I mean that although both the cassette and CD will happily sit on the shelf with no physical signs of decay, the CD with digital files is one step ahead of the analog cassette preservation-wise.  Having said this, it is important to remember that CDs are by no means a long-term preservation solution.  Technology changes quickly so who’s to say if 10 years from now the CD is no longer seen as a viable media format.”

© 2011 Lee Price

1 comment:

  1. Although I do agree that digitalization is the way to go, I feel like we should at least keep the tapes for posterity’s sake. Although tapes can become obsolete, it still feels good to keep them for their sentimental value as it really reminds us of our childhood days.
    Ruby Badcoe