University of Maryland Libraries receives grant to help digitize rare audio

The University of Maryland Libraries will use a nearly $21,400 grant to fund a pilot project aimed at digitizing and preserving rare audio recordings from community radio stations.

The grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources will allow the school to convert about 600 recordings that are part of the National Federation of Community Broadcasting Archives, which are housed in the university’s Hornbake Library.

The archive focuses on collections of underrepresented voices from documentaries, interviews and commentaries, and includes tapings that cover subjects like, “How to Get Birth Control.”

There are also musical performances from unrecorded artists putting on impromptu shows. This includes the songs and chants of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people.

“We are thrilled to be able to make accessible the valuable content of these broadcasts,” Laura Schnitker, ethnomusicologist and an archives curator, said in a statement. “They illustrate American history from alternative perspectives and demonstrate the important role that radio has played and still plays in providing a unique outlet for the public exchange of ideas.”

Once the recordings are digitized, they will available for free online to be used as a resource to researchers around the world.

Many of the audio tapes require cleaning before they can be digitized. They suffer from a condition called “sticky-shed syndrome” caused by the deterioration of the binder connecting the magnetized coating to the plastic tape

After the recordings are digitized, they will be relocated to the offsite Severn Library, where temperature and humidity conditions won’t threaten them.

University employees hope to glean lessons from this pilot program, which could allow them to more effectively digitize the remaining 5,400 tapes in the collection that also suffer from sticky-shed syndrome.

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