Preserving the Sounds of the Sunshine State

Today, we are highlighting one of the State Archives’ exciting endeavors: audio digitization.

Since 2003 the State Archives has digitized thousands of audio recordings in the Florida Folklife Collection. The goal of this effort is to preserve Florida’s folk culture and make it accessible to educators, researchers, and Florida folk enthusiasts around the world. The Collection includes interviews, field recordings and performances gathered by folklorists from the Florida Folklife Program and recordings from the Florida Folk Festival dating back to 1954.

Reel-to-reel tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection. Content includes interviews and field recordings by the Florida Folklife Program and performances from the Florida Folk Festival.

Reel-to-reel tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection. Content includes interviews and field recordings by the Florida Folklife Program and performances from the Florida Folk Festival.

Audio recording formats in the Folklife Collection consist of reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, digital audio tapes (DATS), compact discs (CDs), and digital audio files. They are kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment in the Archives’ stacks to minimize deterioration.

A reel-to-reel tape, cassette tape, digital audio tape (DAT), and CD from the Florida Folklife Collection.

A reel-to-reel tape, cassette tape, digital audio tape (DAT), and compact disc (CD) from the Florida Folklife Collection.

Although it may resemble Don Draper from AMC's hit show Mad Men, this is a Thoro Test reel-to-reel box holding a recording from the 1959 Florida Folk Festival.

Although it may resemble Don Draper from AMC’s hit show Mad Men, this is a Thoro Test reel-to-reel box holding a recording from the 1959 Florida Folk Festival.

A box of cassette tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection representing the diverse cultures of Florida.

A box of cassette tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection representing the diverse cultures of Florida.

To bring you these recordings, the original source materials must be transferred from their analog medium to a digital file. This process requires legacy audio equipment, like reel-to-reel tape machines and cassette decks, to play the audio recordings, and new digital technology, such as analog-to-digital converters, high quality sound cards, and audio computer software to capture the sound digitally.

The Ampex ATR-102 is used to playback reel-to-reel tapes for digitization.

The Ampex ATR-102 is used to playback reel-to-reel tapes for digitization.

The Tascam 112MK II (top) is used to playback cassette tapes and the Tascam DA-20MK II (bottom) is used to playback digital audio tape for digitization.

The Tascam 112MK II (top) is used to play cassette tapes and the Tascam DA-20MK II (bottom) is used to play digital audio tape for digitization.

The resulting digital audio file is an uncompressed 96 khz 24 bit WAV file. This file specification is a national archival standard, chosen for its ability to capture all frequencies in the human hearing range.

The Apogee Rosetta 200 converts analog audio (e.g. reel-to-reel tapes) to digital audio.

The Apogee Rosetta 200 converts analog audio (e.g. reel-to-reel tapes) to digital audio.

The Lynx AES16 sound card allows for a high quality digital audio transfer from the Apogee Rosetta 200.

The Lynx AES16 sound card allows for a high quality digital audio transfer from the Apogee Rosetta 200.

These high quality files are called “preservation masters” and are stored without undergoing any editing whatsoever. The idea is to preserve all sonic qualities (good and bad) of the original recording. Some recordings undergo minor editing for listenability when making access copies (e.g. CDs) for users, and mp3 versions for the Florida Memory website and Florida Memory Radio.

For more information about digitization at the State Archives of Florida, check out our Digitization Guidelines.

 

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