Saving America’s Recorded Sound Heritage Reply

It’s amazing to think about the vast treasure trove of sound recordings archived at the Library of Congress — historic speeches, music, radio

Mountain Chief of the Blackfoot Tribe listens to a cylinder recording of a Blackfoot song made by Frances Densmore (left), 1906. Library of Congress.

Mountain Chief of the Blackfoot Tribe listens to a cylinder recording of a Blackfoot song made by Frances Densmore (left), 1906. Library of Congress.

broadcasts and other recordings. Early recordings of Gershwin and Judy Garland; Alexander Graham Bell’s earliest sound recording experiments; a recording of a Blackfoot tribal song made in 1906; and a wire recording made in the cockpit of the Enola Gay during the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Evidently, these are just a few pieces of American history captured in sound recordings and archived within the Library of Congress.

This week, the Library of Congress unveiled an extensive plan (called the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Plan) to help libraries and archives nationwide preserve historic sound recordings. Unfortunately, it seems that many of the oldest recordings which were recorded on cylinder records may have already been lost… although, hopefully this new preservation plan can help to save whats left of America’s recorded sound heritage for future generations. In a statement released this week, James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress stated:

The publication of this plan is a timely and historic achievement…. As a nation, we have good reason to be proud of our record of creativity in the sound-recording arts and sciences. However, our collective energy in creating and consuming sound recordings has not been matched by an equal level of interest in preserving them for posterity. Radio broadcasts, music, interviews, historic speeches, field recordings, comedy records, author readings and other recordings have already been forever lost to the American people.

Collecting, preserving and providing access to recorded sound requires a comprehensive national strategy. This plan is the result of a long and challenging effort, taking into account the concerns and interests of many public and private stakeholders. It is America’s first significant step toward effective national collaboration to save our recorded-sound heritage for future generations

The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute have been awarded a grant of $750,000 to preserve the irreplaceable sound recording treasures in their archives and they are trying to raise an additional $750,000 in matching funds. (for more on Save Our Sounds http://www.loc.gov/folklife/sos/index.html)

The vast treasure trove of America’s recorded sound heritage is awesome and awe inspiring. With any luck, the preservation efforts may also start making some of these historical recordings available to the public.

See also: News update from the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-014.html; quotes from the National Sound Preservation Plan at http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/files/SoundPreservationPlanQuotes.pdf; the Save Our Sounds initiative at http://www.loc.gov/folklife/sos/index.html; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57569264/library-of-congress-unveils-plan-to-save-historic-recordings/; and www.kasterlegal.com

“Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its vast collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.”

BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.

vk@kasterlegal.com

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