Preservation Week at Perspectives: Audio Preservation and Access

To celebrate Preservation Week (April 21-27, #presweek), we are making available, to members and nonmembers alike, Jennifer Reut’s article on audio preservation and the Library of Congress’ recently released National Recording Preservation Plan  that appears in the April issue of Perspectives on History.

A badly deteriorated Memovox disc, a grooved CAV audio disc format made of thin sheets of cellulose acetate. This recording is unplayable and permanently lost. Library of Congress Photo/Abby Brack Lewis

Reut, associate editor of Perspectives, underscores the importance of recorded audio to the historical record and reveals a surprising connection between copyright, access, and preservation efforts. Copyright rules covering audio are notoriously complex, and libraries often avoid legal entanglements by not making copies of their recorded material available.

This image of a melted audio disk illustrates how easily this material can be lost, and a similar fate awaits an overwhelming amount of recorded material in a dizzying array of formats. We have incredible new technologies that will facilitate preservation of our recorded heritage, but, as Reut’s article details, without a rethinking of our resources and laws, much of this heritage will be rendered silent.

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