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About Audio Preservation at NEDCC

cylinders open reel tapedisc

In 2014, NEDCC began offering audio preservation services for grooved media using the “touchless” optical-scanning technology, called IRENE, which retrieves sound without damaging the physical carrier.  Based on the success of IRENE, NEDCC’s clients began asking us to expand into audio preservation of magnetic tape with a high-touch, high-quality service for their unique collections where the stakes are high.

NEDCC offers the following audio preservation services:

Digitization of Magnetic Media

  • Open-reel ¼”audio tape
  • Cassette audio tape

Digitization of Grooved Media with Stylus (marked with *) and/or IRENE

  • Wax cylinder
  • Metal master disc*
  • Long-play (LP) vinyl disc*
  • Lacquer disc (a.k.a., “acetate” disc)
  • Aluminum transcription disc
  • Shellac disc*
  • Tin foil
  • Other rare formats (e.g., Voicewriter, Audograph, Soundscriber Disc, etc.)

Reformatting of Digital Media

  • Digital audio tape (DAT)
  • Compact Disc (CD)


  • Cleaning
  • Re-housing
  • Repair of damaged carriers
  • Mitigation of “sticky shed” syndrome
  • Digital imaging and conservation of original paper-based containers and related manuscript materials (e.g., musical scores, programs, etc.)


  • Collection-level assessment of audio holdings
  • Item-level assessment of audio carriers
  • Workshops, webinars, and “preservation leaflets” on audio preservation


To drive labor costs down, the trend among for-profit vendors has been to employ automated, high-throughput workflows for audio preservation.  Such workflows call for one audio technician to NEDCC Audio Preservation Control Room 1digitize as many as 12 sound carriers at once.  Because it is not possible to simultaneously listen to and comprehend multiple recordings, quality assurance is performed after-the-fact using software to detect lost signal, etc.  Unfortunately, this approach too often results in untenable errors, such as incorrect or missing metadata; improper calibration and alignment resulting in unfaithful sound reproduction; missing audio channels; improper speeds; and missing time codes.  

As a result, many for-profit vendors are now operating on a promise of “satisfaction guaranteed” (i.e., if the client discovers an error within a short window of time, they will fix it at no extra charge) rather than “quality guaranteed” (i.e., providing quality control).  The ultimate burden for quality assurance falls on the clients, who are often unaware that they need to listen to every file for completeness and accuracy. 

While mass-production is an expedient and necessary approach for many materials, there are a large number of unique collections that demand a higher level of care and skill. 

Such collections may include, but are not limited to:

  • ethnographic field recordings of the now-extinct languages of indigenous cultures;
  • transcription discs of early radio broadcasts;
  • live recordings of musical performances, monologues, political speeches, inaugural addresses, academic lectures, etc.;
  • unique recordings of historical events; and
  • recordings on fragile carriers.

Consequently, NEDCC is filling this void by providing audio preservation services using a traditional, specialized workflow supplemented by a conservation ethos. 

This workflow includes:

  • 100% attended transfers (i.e., one audio engineer transfers one recording at a time);
  • 100% quality control (i.e., the complete recording is listened to as it is being digitized and corrective action taken on the spot, as needed);
  • strict adherence to IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives), FADGI (Federal Agency Digitization Guidelines Initiative), and/or NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) standards for digitization;
  • a conservation-minded digitization approach that respects the value of the physical carrier as well as its audio content;
  • strict adherence to the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) (e.g., informing clients in writing of exactly how we propose to clean any media; only using vetted techniques; and never treating such important information as “proprietary”); and
  • professional and thorough communication and documentation.

By offering this traditional approach, it is hoped that NEDCC’s nonprofit service would not take business away from existing for-profit vendors, but would be accretive to the overall effort of preserving as many audio collections as possible before they are lost to posterity because of physical deterioration.


Need advice? Interested in working with NEDCC on an audio preservation project?


Bryce Roe
Manager of Audio Preservation Services
(978) 470-1010, ext. 237 

For questions about receipt and return of your materials, or packing and shipping:


Jonathan Goodrich
(978) 470-1010, ext. 215