[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[AV Media Matters] UNESCO-1
I posted this to the AMIA-L last year but many people on this List probably
have not seen it. It is too long to send as one message.
CONSULTATION OF AUDIO ARCHIVISTS AND MANUFACTURERS OF ANALOG MAGNETIC TAPE
RECORDERS ON THE PRESERVATION OF ACCESS TO THE AUDIO HERITAGE OF THE WORLD
Meeting held at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
Thursday, April 23rd 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Organization of the Consultation
Aim of the Consultation
Report of the Consultation
Reasons for Seeking Cooperation
Results of a Survey of Archives
Additional Comments from Archive Representatives
Responses from Representatives of Tape Machine Manufacturers
List of Participants
The Consultation was attended by ten representatives of audio collections, by
representatives of five analog magnetic tape machine manufacturers and by
representatives of UNESCO.
Purpose of the Consultation:
The aim of the Consultation was to examine and discuss ways in which those
concerned with the preservation of and access to the world's audio heritage
can work together with the remaining manufacturers of analog magnetic tape
machines to achieve an orderly withdrawal of support for the quarter inch
tape format. The archives wish to see an extended period of support for the
format to enable them to migrate their collections of audio recordings to new
formats. The manufacturers want to obtain a reasonable commercial return for
their role in the task. By working together, it is hoped that an
understanding that meets the requirements of both parties can be achieved.
Results of the Consultation:
1. The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives will
supply information about the membership of the association to the
2. IASA will endeavor to obtain detailed information about the likely
requirements for new analog tape machines and for spare parts from its
members. The results of the research will be made available to the
3. The manufacturers will inform IASA about models of machines are currently
in production. In addition, information about the likely production life of
the models will also be supplied. IASA will supply its members with this
information in its Journal and other publications.
4. The manufacturers will provide IASA with an advance warning when a model
is about to cease production. IASA will inform its members of such impending
action to allow them to place orders for any machines that may be required.
5. The manufacturers will advise IASA of the period for which spare parts
will be available for obsolete machines. IASA will publish the information
for the benefit of its members.
Organization of the Consultation:
The Consultation was organized by the Technical Committee of the
International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) in
conjunction with the Information, Informatics and Communications sector of
UNESCO. It was attended by ten representatives of audio collections by
representatives of five analog magnetic tape machine manufacturers and by
representatives of UNESCO (see Annex A for list of participants). Dietrich
Schuller, Chair of the IASA Technical Committee, and George Boston, Secretary
of the IASA Technical Committee, acted as Chair and Rapporteur for the
Purpose of the Consultation:
The purpose of the Consultation was to examine and discuss ways in which
those concerned with the preservation of and access to the world's audio
heritage can work together with the remaining manufacturers of analog
magnetic tape machines to achieve an orderly withdrawal of support for the
quarter inch tape format. The archives wish to see an extended period of
support for the format to enable them to migrate their collections of audio
recordings to new formats. The manufacturers want to obtain a reasonable
commercial return for their role in the task. By working together, it is
hoped that an understanding that meets the requirements of both parties can
Within a few years, it is anticipated that the great majority of new audio
recordings will be completed entirely within the digital domain. The use of
analog machines for recording will be rare. The requirement to play back
analog tapes, will, however, be required for much longer. This requirement
will be for two reasons:
1. To provide access to the existing stock of recorded analog tapes.
2. To transfer the collection to a new format.
To quantify the number of machine hours required to fulfill these two
requirements is difficult.
1. The number of occasions that access will be required to analog recordings
2. Not all the material currently in store will be considered suitable for
transfer to a new format for long term preservation.
3. A tape may need to be played several times during the selection process
before a decision about transferring it is made.
4. The actual transfer process may require several attempts because of
damage to the tape or because of modulation problems.
The sum of these reasons will be to increase the number of hours of machine
time required to play analog tapes to a figure greater than the number of
hours of material in existence.
REPORT OF THE CONSULTATION
Dietrich Schuller, Chair of the IASA Technical Committee, welcomed the
participants to Paris and outlined the proposed order of events. He
introduced Joie Springer of the Information and Informatics Division of
UNESCO who welcomed the participants on behalf of UNESCO and gave an opening
Reasons for Seeking Cooperation:
A summary of the reasons for organizing the meeting was given by Dietrich
Schuller. He drew attention to the increasing concern that the collections of
audio recordings around the world would be left with substantial stocks of
recordings that they could not access or transfer to other formats because of
a lack of the essential playback machines. The quarter inch magnetic tape has
for many years been considered commonplace. As time passes, however, the
sounds stored on the tapes are becoming more valuable to researchers, to
broadcasters and to the general public. The magnetic tapes are carriers of an
important part of the world's cultural heritage and information. They are
providers of education and of entertainment and are part of the collective
memory of the world.
In this context, the manufacturers of analog tape machines have some part of
the responsibility for the continued access to this portion of the world
heritage. By coming to this meeting today. they are playing a part in the
task of preventing a sudden collapse of support for the format and, thus,
helping to avoid the problems that the video world faces. There, the sudden
removal of support for the twoinch quadruplex video tape format have left
the collections with many more hours of material to be examined and
transferred than the number of machine hours available.
The archives are not seeking charity. On the contrary, it is felt that with a
spirit of cooperation it will be possible to base any understandings on a
firm commercial foundation. The archives can help industry to gauge the size
of the longterm market and the likely requirements for new machines and
spare parts. Industry can assist archives to plan for the future by supplying
early information about changes in the range of models of machines that are
in production and that are being supported.
Results of a Survey of Archives:
George Boston summarized the replies to a questionnaire sent to a small
number of archives worldwide. The archives sent the questionnaire included
major radio stations, national archives and smaller specialist collections.
The survey also had a wide geographical spread with most areas of the world
The questionnaire was not intended to be a full, in-depth survey of holdings
and equipment needs of all the audio collections in the world. It does,
however, provide an illustration of the holdings of archives of various types
of collections and give an indication of their likely future new machine and
spare part requirements. A total of 29 responses were received.
Additional Comments from Archive Representatives:
Peter Copeland of the British Library, National Sound Archive in London
(NSA), reported that the NSA was still recording much of its new material on
analog quarter inch tape. The reason for this was a lack of confidence in the
longterm viability of the existing discrete digital audio formats. The best
candidate was the recordable CD (CD-R) but the lack of erase capability
caused operational difficulties. The new erasable CD-R was being studied at
the moment and looks promising.
Mr Copeland also drew attention to the need for a continuing supply of
reference tapes for machine alignment and of support for the many noise
reduction formats that have been used for analog audio. Another cost element
in the migration of the NSA collection was the need to employ secretarial and
documentalist staff to assist with the creation of better records and
catalogue information for the audio material.
Gerald Gibson of the Library of Congress (LC) in Washington D.C. said that it
was still the practice of LC to make all preservation recordings on quarter
inch analog tape. This was, in fact, the current recommendation of both the
Audio Engineering Society and of the IASA Technical Committee. The IASA
Technical Committee is in the process of reviewing this recommendation. One
of the reasons for not changing the policy was that the digital formats with
the best life expectancy had sampling rates that were considered too low for
preservation copies. The Library is, however, examining robotic mass storage
systems for the future storage of the audio collections.
Mr Gibson added that the Library is still receiving many hours of new
material each year from other institutions. It was anticipated that as other
institutions move to digital technology, the Library of Congress collections
would quadruple in size within ten years.
One question that had not yet been definitively answered was the life of a
magnetic tape. With good storage the best guess was a minimum of fifty years
for PVC or polyester tape. Binder breakdown is a problem but it can be
overcome reasonably easily. The life of the tape may well be the final
limiting factor for the migration of collections. Tape was now made by only a
few manufacturers. The situation was about the same for CD-R with all discs
being made by only five companies although many more "makes" are available.
JeanMarc Fontaine of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF) reported
that the BNF holds over 20,000 hours of quarter inch analog tape. In
addition, there were many hours of audio cassette recordings. The
Bibliotheque was having problems with friction when replaying some tapes.
There were also many problems with tapes that had been received from
Sven Allerstrand of the Swedish National Archive of Sound and Moving Image
(ALB) reported that the ALB possessed only 10,000 hours of quarter inch
analog audio tape. There were in addition many hours of slow speed recordings
of the Swedish national radio networks. Problems were foreseen with the
support of this latter collection. The ALB was currently giving priority to
the copying of its collection of more than one million hours of video tape.
It was hoped that the quarter inch format would supported for 100 years.
Magdelena Cseve of Hungarian Radio reported that discussion were currently
taking place in Hungary about the best method for the future preservation of
the audio collection. It was clear that the future for the quarter inch
analog tape format was uncertain and that. because of the size of the task,
the process of migrating the collection to a new format should start soon.
Hungarian Radio will also assist other Hungarian language institutions that
have audio collections with the migration of their material. Radio stations
have one advantage in that there are a large number of tape machines outside
the archive operation. These machines could be transferred to the archive as
the station moves to a digital operation.
Albrecht Hafner of Sudwestfunk in BadenBaden said that there was a great
difference between the audio collections of the major radio stations and the
that of the national archives. The radio stations could provide much greater
technical support for the archive operation than was available to most
H. Hafner saw two major problems with the migration of the Sudwestfunk
collection. The first was the number of additional trained technicians
required to undertake the work which had to be done without interrupting the
normal operations of the archive. He estimated that Sudwestfunk would need
twelve additional staff to complete the migration of the collection. The
second problem was the availability of the necessary replay machines to
complete the work.
Sudwestfunk, had begun a pilot project to migrate some of the collection to a
digital mass storage system. Such systems had been available for about ten
years and had proved reliable in other fields of information storage such as
banking and financial services. All the radio stations in Germany were
examining such systems.
Clifford Harkness of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum said that the last
five years had seen a growing withdrawal of manufacturers from the quarter
inch analog tape format. In comparison, the previous thirty years had been
very stable. The public was supplying many small collections of tapes to the
Museum and would also be a potential source of machines and spare parts. The
Museum was still using quarter inch tape as the main preservation format but
the use of CD-R was being explored. Field recordings for the Museum were
currently being made using portable Nagra and Uher machines but there were
increasing difficulties in obtaining spare parts. The Museum also has a large
collection of audio cassettes and has concerns about the future of this
Dietrich Schuller of the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
said that the Phonogrammarchiv held about 7000 hours of analog quarter inch
audio tape and were still recording on the format. It is clear that the
future supply of new machines and of spare parts was potentially a major
problem. What is less clear was that the supply of the tape may also be
threatened. Next year the Phonogrammarchiv were beginning a pilot project
using a digital mass storage system for the storage of its sounds.
The need to preserve the collections was becoming more important as time
passes. As the material ages, it becomes more valuable to historians and
other researchers. The oral histories, the musical performances, the
political speakers etc. become more interesting with the passage of time.