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Recent Activities of the National Recording Preservation Board

The activities of the National Recording Preservation Board extend well beyond advising the Librarian of Congress on the selection of recordings for the National Recording Registry.

The Board was created by the National Sound Recording Preservation Act, established as law in 2000 [P.L.106-474]. The act includes several components: creation of the National Recording Registry; establishment of the advisory National Recording Preservation Board at the Library of Congress, which brings together experts in the field of recording and preservation; and a fund-raising Foundation.

The National Recording Preservation Board, appointed by the Librarian of Congress, consists of representatives from professional organizations of composers, musicians, musicologists, librarians, archivists and the recording industry. The legislation charges the Board with conducting a recording preservation study. According to the legislation, the study is to address:

The Library of Congress has asked the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to assist with the audio preservation study. The study is being undertaken in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) and is proceeding on several fronts. The National Recording Preservation Act directs the Librarian of Congress to develop a comprehensive national recording preservation program, drawing on the findings of the study.

Two new NRPB-commissioned reports were published during fiscal year 2006. Copyright Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Pre-1972 Commercial Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives [PDF: 506 KB] by Libraries and Archives (December 2005), was written by June M. Besek of Columbia Law School, and Capturing Analog Sound for Digital Preservation: Report of a Roundtable Discussion of Best Practices for Transferring Analog Discs and Tapes [PDF: 444 KB] (March 2006) presented the results of a 2004 roundtable of preservation engineers. Both were co-published by the Library and the Council on Library and Information Resources. These reports continue the series inaugurated by the August 2005 report entitled Survey of Reissues of U.S. Recordings [PDF: 575 KB] by Tim Brooks.

In March, a second Recording Engineer's Roundtable was convened to extend the technical discussion beyond analog capture into issues related to the digital preservation of audio. A select group of engineers, scientists and technology experts met for two days in Washington to discuss a range of essential topics. Selected white papers of the presentations will be posted on the CLIR website in the coming weeks, as well as a hard copy version to be published in 2007 in conjunction with a final report of the discussions. In July, another NRPB-sponsored symposium was held in Austin, Texas and focused on a core issue for the recorded sound archival community: the need to establish new educational curricula for audio preservationists, including university-based graduate level degree programs. The two-day meeting was organized for the NRPB by the Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas-Austin.

In November of 2003 the National Recording Preservation Board sponsored a meeting of leading discographers in a first attempt to create a relational database file structure which will authoritatively document master recording sessions, their participants (performers, composers, engineers, producers, etc.), and digital files created for the preservation of these masters. A list of fields suggested by this group is now being reviewed by a systems analyst.

The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 also mandates the Librarian of Congress to “seek to obtain, by gift from the owner, a quality copy of the Registry version of each sound recording included in the National Recording Registry.” To that end, the Library is in the process of receiving master recordings for each of last year’s Registry items. Major record companies holding masters for the 2002 Registry materials have been contacted and are generously offering their cooperation to the Library by locating whatever best elements survive for their recordings – from master tapes to metal parts – and making them available for digital preservation within their own company, at the Library, or with an outside vendor. Two digital master files will be generated – one for preservation at the Library and one for the record owner. Registry materials will be available to the public for listening at the Library. However, all rights remain with the original owners. Non-commercial recordings will be treated similarly.

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