ELL: Tr : arsclist how to archive your language and other matters

Claire Bowern bowern at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Oct 18 06:17:38 UTC 2000

A couple of comments on the various media.
Firstly, I'm surprised that anyone is recommending reel-to-reel. There is a
big problem with older archival materials in this format that the tape
becomes brittle over time; it's probably less of a problem with tapes made
now than it is with reels over 50 years old but it's still a major drawback
and a reason why many institutions (such as the National Film and Sound
Archive in Australia) are converting reels to other media

Anything magnetic (like conventional audio tapes) will get demagnetised
over time and is not a good 'permanent' medium.

Re digital deterioration: The most common cause of CD deterioration is the
CD getting scratches. Computer hard drives  build up errors because of the
constant read-write that's going on during processing. This doesn't happen
when a CD-ROM is played because it's read-only; the only equivalent of the
'write' that happens to a hard drive is if the grooves get dirty or
scratched. There's also physical deterioration of the metal, but I think
after the scare of corroding CDs in Germany in the early 90s the
manufacturers have fixed that problem, at least for the time being.

Another point to consider is retrieving items off the tape/cd/reel. It's
easy to tag the beginning of a segment on a CD (it's just a new track) and
so it's very easy to retrieve individual stories, whereas for tapes and
reels it's necessary to cue the tape and have a detailed audition sheet and
so on.

I'd go with DAT and minidiscs, with a paper copy (acid-free paper) of
transcriptions as another backup. It's easy to transfer these between other
media (eg DAT to magnetic audio cassette).

If all else fails, there's charcoal ink and papyrus buried in sand in a
warm and dry climate, but it makes information retrieval a bit hard...

Best wishes for your project!

Claire Bowern

>Christian PERROTEAU wrote:
>>De : Brian Levy <xernaut at yahoo.com>
>>À : ARSCLIST at galileo.cc.rochester.edu
>>Objet : arsclist how to archive your language and other matters
>>Date : Lun 16 oct 2000 1:45
>>>Hello all,
>>>I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Brian Levy, and I work
>>>with the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma as a Cultural Preservation
>>>Activist (for wont of a better title to describe my job).  Basically I
>>>am helping the tribe create a permanent archive of songs, dances, oral
>>>history in English, and, quite importantly, since the tribe is down to
>>>only about twenty fluent speakers of the language now, we are recording
>>>to DAT all manner of Caddo language, including stories, monologues,
>>>prayers, conversation, etc.  We are creating a master archive of Caddo
>>>audio materials, recording older analog recordings on reel to reel and
>>>analog cassette, to CD directly, and copying all DAT tapes made since we
>>>began using DAT two years ago, also to CD.  We make on blue dye copy on
>>>Mitsui media (home audio type, not CDR computer type, using a Harmon
>>>Kardon CDR2 machine, we also make one gold dye Kodak CD home audio copy
>>>for a second copy of our archive housed at a archive in Oklahoma.  A
>>>third copy is also made on the same Mitsui blue dye (silver) CD's.  We
>>>may soon switch to just using computer CDR's instead of the home audio
>>>type, since Tascam makes a machine for under 100 dollars which is high
>>>quality and recommended.  I consult with others doing similar work to
>>>this, and I am on this and other lists.  I am trying to determine the
>>>archivability of this strategy.  We have 110 CD's so far, and no stop in
>>>sight, as we have tons of analog recordings to migrate, and are
>>>constantly making new DAT recording.
>>>We have a huge quantity of old Beta, VHS, Hi8, Super8, and now we use
>>>Sony TCR-320 Digital 8 cams for all videoing of elders and dances. We
>>>are waiting to know what is best for permanent archivability for
>>>these.  I am guessing DVD-Rom burners, as opposed to DVD-Ram or
>>>such.  But listening to some of your pros on these list servers, I am
>>>wondering.  We do not have the budget to buy equipment costing 50k now,
>>>we are very limited on budget, though we might could get a grant to use
>>>better equipment.
>>>I am just wondering what any of your folks also concerned with permanent
>>>archivability of precious materials, both audio and video, would have to
>>>say on our situation.  I would appreciate some advice.
>>>Some have suggested computer hard drive storage.  Some have said (such
>>>as the Getty Museum in LA, and the Library of Congress, that no current
>>>digital medium is considered archival.  Only old reel to reel tapes
>>>quarter inch, are considered time safe.  Since who knows, they argue, if
>>>any CD players will even be available in 500 years, whereas due to the
>>>wide use of reel to reel all during twentieth century by broadcast media
>>>etc, it will still be playable.  Plus when audio tapes deteriorate on
>>>analog reel to reel they gradually degrade in quality at playback,
>>>whereas, once digital degrades too far, the machines can no longer
>>>decipher the one's and zero's and play the CD back at all.
>>>I know this is a long posting, but I wanted to introduce myself and the
>>>work we are doing at the Caddo tribe, and hopefully get some guidance
>>>from some more technically savvy folk...
>>>       Brian Levy
>>>Brian Levy
>>>Cultural Activist
>>>Kiwat Hasinay Foundation:
>>>Preserving Caddo Heritage
>>>211 W. Colorado Ave.
>>>Anadarko, OK  73005  USA
>>>(1) 405-247-5840

Department of Linguistics
Harvard University
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