Through numerous special projects, the Archives fulfills a dual mandate--safeguarding rare and fragile items while making material easily available to the widest possible audience. Preservation and recording projects extend the boundaries of the Archives beyond those of a basic research facility.
Although users of the Archives study its resources primarily through tape and disc playback, much of what is heard has been derived from rare cylinder, acetate disc, and shellac disc originals. In the Archives sound studios, staff engineers have pioneered methods of sound preservation and transfer, helping to set standards for the field. With specially designed playback equipment, styluses, and transfer technology, engineers can extract sound from early formats with maximum information content, minimum extraneous noise, and minimal alteration in vocal timbre. Results frequently match the quality of the original studio recording.
Exemplary projects include the transfer of sound from turn-of-the-century wax cylinders of Metropolitan Opera performances and the remastering of Toscanini performances originally recorded on the Selenophone, an experimental sound-on-film format used during the 1930s.
Historical Issues and Reissues
The commercial release of rare materials in the Archives helps to widely disseminate masterworks of musical recording. Projects are conducted in cooperation with record companies--such as RCA Records reissue on CD of all commercial recordings made by Arturo Toscanini--or independently--such as the six-record Mapleson Cylinders album produced and sold by the Archives. The recording industry frequently turns to the Archives for studio-quality master tapes when launching historical reissue projects.
By special arrangement, staff conduct talks for professional associations and student groups with an interest in sound recording preservation and archival issues.
Cooperative Archival Projects
Projects pursued jointly with members of the Associated Audio Archives promote broad and comprehensive access to sound archives nationwide. Efforts include the microfiche indexing of 600,000 78rpm discs held by five of the major American sound archives. Through a New York State cooperative project, the Archives has transferred rare and unique acetate discs with a New York focus to more durable formats, ensuring that this great historical legacy will be passed on to future generations.