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Recorded legacy of significant Canadian composers rescued for future generations

by Andrew Carew on 2019-08-20T08:45:00-06:00 | Comments

Recorded legacy of significant Canadian composers rescued for future generations

By Bonnie Woelk, Archivist, with notes from Nathan Chandler, Audiovisual Conservation Specialist

Archives and Special Collections at the University of Calgary has recently completed a provincially-funded project to rescue master recordings of music by Canadian composers Alcides Lanza and Srul Irving Glick.  The Digital Audio Tape Migration project addressed Archives and Special Collections’ initiative to migrate audio recordings on one of the many storage formats in its holdings, and preserve them for future generations.  The Richard Johnston Canadian Music Archives Collection contains a large number of Digital Audio Tapes (DATs) within the archival records of Canadian music composers. 

Digital Audio Tape technology was a relatively short-lived professional audio storage format in use in the 1980s to late 1990s, and content stored on them is at high risk due to rapid degradation of the physical media and the obsolescence of the equipment required to read the digital data.  The format is one that Archives and Special Collections can now address, thanks to new staff expertise and technical infrastructure acquired as part of efforts to preserve the EMI Music Canada Archive.  With provincial funding, the Archives purchased equipment to migrate DAT digital data into a high compatibility file-based format suitable for access and long-term preservation.  Forty-seven DATs were migrated as a test. 

Archives and Special Collections considers the project a success because at-risk master audio recordings of compositions by Alcides Lanza and Srul Irving Glick were successfully migrated, allowing these unique recordings of international significance to be accessed by researchers for the first time and preserved. Further, the equipment purchases are having long-lasting value with their integration into Archives and Special Collections’ nascent reformatting studio -- after the initial DAT Migration Project was completed, another ca. 500 DATs were migrated successfully.

The Digital Audio Tape Migration project was supported by a grant from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation through the Archives Society of Alberta.  Thanks to this funding, Archives and Special Collections has been able to increase access to Canada’s archival heritage for future generations.


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