Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project

Project name and URL
Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/overview.php

Organization Name
Department of Special Collections. Donald C. Davidson Library. University of California, Santa Barbara

This collection consists of digital copies of about 8,000 wax cylinders from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes both popular musical recordings and spoken word pieces, many of which preserve dialects no longer spoken. Audio files of the cylinders are available for free download. The site also includes “Cylinder Radio” a streaming service which plays various collections of comprising either music and speeches. The site has a very straightforward search function that allows searching by keyword, author, title, year, subject, and library call number. It also allows for browsing by topic, instrument, genre, and ethnic group.

This collection is aimed at researchers interested in old sound recordings, the history of sound, history of music, ethnomusicology, students of turn of the century history (includes speeches of politicians and celebrities), and collectors of early recordings.

Background information
The project began as a pilot project in 2002. After determining the feasibility of digitizing the wax cylinders, the project obtained funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Service and was able to place over 5,000 of their cylinders online in 2005. They continue to add new audio files from the collection. They continue funding the project through the UCSB library and IMLS.

How are digital assets presented?
The surrogates are presented in three different formats: you can stream the audio using QuickTime, download an MP3 file, or download an unedited 24-bit wav file. The metadata includes title, performer, issue/label number, year of release, composer, subject(s), item locations, and notes concerning the history of the recording itself. Interestingly, the metadata for much of this project was accomplished at Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Lab. UCSB librarians modified the metadata and completed the rest.

Technical specifications
“Cylinders were transferred using a French-made Archeophone, using custom Shure styli from Expert Stylus in England. The audio was converted from analog to digital using a CEDAR ADA and captured at 44.1KHz with a bit depth of 24 bits in Steinberg Wavelab software running on a PC. Files were edited and normalized and then processed with CEDAR's Series X and Series X+ Declicker, Decrackler, Dehisser, and Debuzzer units. After "cleaning," a third file, dithered down to 16 bits, was created. Surrogate files for online distribution were created with Sound Forge 6.0's batch converter (mp3 files) and Cleaner XL (mov files). (We'd like to use this space as a soapbox to say that Cleaner XL is one of the worst pieces of software we've ever used, with numerous bugs, a bad interface, and constant crashes.)” http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/overview.php
( *** I copied this from the project site, because I felt that I would be unable to summarize this and still make sense. )

All of the master files and derivatives take up about 2.0 TB of disc space. The website communicates with the Davidson library OPAC through the Z39.50 protocol.

Other thoughts

The site makes clear that this project was undertaken for both accessibility and preservation. Some of the cylinders are almost unlistenable, however, they were included in the collections because the project staff felt it was better to have a bad copy than no copy at all. Before this project began, most of their cylinders were both inaccessible and uncatalogued so undertaking the digitization of the cylinders clearly created assets that were actually usable.

This is a very enjoyable, easy to use site for anyone interested in the early period of sound recordings.

1 comment:

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

I believe someone else profiled the project that SU is doing. It is very interesting that they we able to cooperate on metadata.