Loeb Music Library
Audio Preservation Studio
HCL staff discuss audio preservation in a video short by David Ackerman
Recorded sound is a vital part of the world's cultural, artistic, and documentary heritage. Audio preservation has evolved from the conservation of physical objects to programs that ensure not only care for the original but long-term access to the audio artifact. To further the Loeb Music Library's mission as a repository and research facility, the library's Audio Preservation Studio (APS) preserves, reformats, and reproduces audio materials from the collections. APS relies on a staff of engineers experienced with audio formats ranging from wax cylinder recordings to surround-sound electronic compositions; their work allows library users not just to play rare and unique recordings, but to hear them as they were meant to be heard. Administrative and structural metadata are collected for all processes, in order to preserve the context of the preservation work for later assessment and data migration.
As participants in standards organizations and through partnerships with other institutions, the staff of APS have drafted reports on best practices for audio preservation, developed open source tools for automating digitization and data collection, and contributed to international standards for audio collections.
APS's primary client is the Harvard College Library, but the studio also accepts projects from other Harvard units, as well as from outside the University. View the slide presentation Audio Digitization and Preservation Reformatting to learn more about planning an audio preservation project with APS. Questions regarding the studio may be directed to Patricia O'Brien, Administrative Coordinator, Loeb Music Library, via e-mail.
Facilities and Equipment
The studio features some of the finest digital and analog audio equipment available. The preservation studio's signal path features 96K, 24-bit capability and is "bit-clean;" digital audio put into the system remains unaltered unless alterations are deliberately introduced. The studios also offer noise reduction restoration services for audio, utilizing some of the finest tools available today.
APS's audio equipment includes Studer and Ampex tape machines, Prism analog-digital converters, Genelec S30D monitors, and Keith Monks record-cleaning equipment. The room acoustics have been carefully engineered to create well-tuned listening environments. The measuring systems include an Audio Precision Test set, Spectra Foo and other scopes and RTAs that allow for real-time monitoring of the audio signal, proof-of-performance testing of the entire signal chain, and precise calibration of equipment.
The Sound Directions project is an NEH-funded joint venture with the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music to create best practices and test emerging standards in the digital preservation of critically endangered sound recordings.
Music from the Archive: A New Model of Access to Rare and Unique Sound Recordings
The pilot project of the Archive of World Music, "Music from the Archive" involves developing the technologies and methodologies needed to access sound recordings as well as other digital objects. Focusing on three of the Archive's premier collections, the completed project will provide students and scholars with online access to the collections' finding aids, images, and audio files—much of it rare and unique material. The collections included in the project are the Laura Boulton Collection of Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Chant, the Joseph Jeffers Dodge Duke Ellington Collection, and the James Rubin Collection of South Indian Classical Music. This project was funded by a Harvard University Library Digital Initiative Grant. For more details please see the Final Report.
- "Keeping the Vibes." Harvard Magazine. May-June 2007: 63-66.
- Harvard Sound Directions Toolkit Available for Download
- Loeb Music Co-Authors Ground-Breaking Report on Audio Preservation
- Harvard College Library Digitizes Iranian Oral History Interviews
- Association for Recorded Sound Collections
- Audio Engineering Society
- European Broadcast Union
- International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives
- Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers