Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Science of Preserving Sound

With the assistance of my sister, my mother recorded four cassette tapes of her memories of her youth and the old family stories.  These cassette tapes are seven years old now.  As physical items within our family collection, we are concerned with ensuring their long-term survival and accessibility.

The staff at George Blood Audio and Video with
Preservation Administrator Cassandra Gallegos on far left.
During the next two weeks, I will be sharing excerpts from an interview with Cassandra Gallegos, Preservation Administrator for George Blood Audio and Video.  The Safe Sound Archive at George Blood Audio and Video is one of the country’s leading providers in preserving, reformatting, and storing audio and video media.  Their clients have included the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Symphony, the Curtis Institute of Music, the National Park Service, and the Library of Congress.

According to Cassandra, “There are many simple and common sense actions you can perform to protect and preserve these cassettes.”  We’ll start with three of the most basic of Cassandra’s recommendations:

1.  Inspect the Playback Equipment
“Do not use an old playback system or tape machine without putting it through a thorough inspection, preferably by an expert. At the very least, test the equipment in various modes (fast forward, play, stop, etc.) with a cassette that is not collection material.”

2.  Remove Recording Tabs
 “Immediately check to see if the record tabs on each cassette have been removed.  This reduces the chance of accidentally recording over a tape when you mean to listen to it.”

3.  Keep the Tapes Wound to One Side
“Make sure the tape is wound all the way to one side.  A cassette tape is at its most vulnerable when the machine pulls the tape from the cassette towards the playback head.  This is the reason it is recommended that tapes be stored with the tape wound onto one hub.”

© 2010 Lee Price

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