Sound fu­ture for ar­chives

The Northern Advocate - - 48 Hours / Feature - Lindy Laird

Re­search­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences of New Zea­land sol­diers in North Africa dur­ing World War II, Mar­tyn Thomp­son made more than 80 tape record­ings of old veter­ans’ sto­ries. The ma­te­rial was for his 2005 book, Our War: The Grim Digs: New Zea­land Sol­diers In North Africa, 1940-1943.

Those cas­sette tapes might not with­stand the pas­sage of time and have now been digi­tised to pre­serve them, a project the North­land RSA Trust gave $4000 to.

New Zea­land Mi­cro­graphic Ser­vices Ltd un­der­took the job of pre­serv­ing Thomp­son’s recorded ma­te­rial.

NZMS is the coun­try’s largest full-ser­vice bureau work­ing in the her­itage and cul­tural sec­tors to trans­fer ma­te­rial to fu­ture-proof dig­i­tal form.

The com­pany turned Thomp­son’s 74 mi­cro and six com­pact discs of record­ings into 128 files, or 90 hours of lis­ten­ing.

NZMS North­ern re­gion man­ager Ali­son Bar­nett said the com­pany started digi­tis­ing au­ral ma­te­rial about five years ago when it be­came in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent the older-style mag­netic tapes had a rel­a­tively short re­main­ing life.

“It is es­ti­mated that most mag­netic tape won’t be playable af­ter 2025,” Bar­nett said.

While NZMS’ fo­cus is on pre­serv­ing ma­te­rial by trans­fer­ring it to a more sta­ble elec­tronic stor­age en­vi­ron­ment, any job would be turned down if it were likely to harm the orig­i­nal ma­te­rial.

“Be­cause most of the play­back ma­chines we re­quire to cap­ture these for­mats on are no longer man­u­fac­tured, we ob­tain them sec­ond­hand from the likes of Trade Me.

“Even then be­cause they are so rare, par­tic­u­larly those that have the high lev­els of spec­i­fi­ca­tions we want, we like to keep a close eye on seller and com­mu­nity web­sites.

“When we re­ceive a ma­chine, we have it re­paired, mod­i­fied, cal­i­brated or ser­viced by one of the few providers still pos­sess­ing this knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. In ad­di­tion to our daily clean­ing and checks rou­tine, we have play­back ma­chines ser­viced on a six-monthly ba­sis, de­pen­dent on through­put.”

Photo / Getty Im­ages

Mar­tyn Thomp­son has recorded the tales of the men and women who fought in Word War II.

Photo / Getty Im­ages

A case for change: Ex­perts rec­om­mend digi­tis­ing the ma­te­rial on cas­settes.

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