Sound future for archives
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.”
Martyn Thompson has recorded the tales of the men and women who fought in Word War II.
A case for change: Experts recommend digitising the material on cassettes.