Posted by: Government & Heritage Library | May 15, 2010

Preservation Week Spotlight on Digital Audio and Video Preservation

Sound and film archives have reached a critical point in their history, marked by the rapid deterioration of original recordings, the development of new digital technologies, and the decline of analog formats and media. Today’s spotlight institutions have made great strides in preserving amazing collections of digital audio and/or video files.

  • The Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music (ATM) and the Archive of World Music at Harvard are two of the U.S.’s most well established and extensive ethnographic sound archives. Their collections include field recordings of music from around the globe, oral histories, commercial sound recordings, and videos of interest to ethnomusicologists. These institutions have joined forces to collaborate on a project that will digitally preserve these critically endangered sound recordings. While their materials are not accessible online, their work in preservation is truly groundbreaking.
  • The Internet Archive is a non-profit whose mission is to build permanent historical collections of materials that exist in digital format and to make those collections freely available on the web.  This means that they have explored a lot of areas, including audio and video collections. Their audio collection includes music, audio books, news broadcasts, old time radio shows, etc. The Live Music Archive sub-collection includes over 75,000 concert recordings from independent artists, as well as more established artists and musical ensembles with permissive rules about recording their concerts such as the Grateful Dead, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Blues Traveler. Their video collection includes classic full-length films, alternative news broadcasts, cartoons and concerts.
  • The EVIA Digital Archive Project is a collaborative effort to create a digital archive of ethnographic field video for use by scholars and instructors. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from Indiana University and the University of Michigan, the project is developing a preservation and access system for annotated ethnographic field video.
  • StoryCorps is a non-profit whose mission is to provide Americans an opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of their lives in an effort to capture moments in the lives of real people that might otherwise be lost. Many of these stories are broadcast weekly on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and all are available on the web. In addition, each story is being preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
  • Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States dedicated to supporting cultural diversity through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound. Folkways provides access to the music collected as part of the Smithsonian Global Sound project, a collaboration between Folkways and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, whose mission is to preserve and disseminate a wide range of the world’s music.
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