The Association for Recorded Sound Collections Seeks New Members


Why should you join The Association for Recorded Sound Collections? Subscribe to the ARSC recorded sound discussion list and get your questions answered or check out the ARSC YouTube page for more insights into the organization’s benefits.

While brushing up on editing skills and best practice for video preservation, I had the opportunity to complete a video project for The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) in conjunction with their 2015 membership recruitment drive.

The videos, now on the ARSC Youtube page, feature ARSC members delivering personal testimonials, encouraging interested parties to join up with the organization. Being an ARSC member myself, I was able to utilize my connections to gain professional experience and enhance my resume.

Joining a professional organization, such as ARSC, can be critical for graduate students and professionals alike. Here is a glimpse into their mission:

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings – in all genres of music and speech, in all formats, and from all periods.

Founded in 1966, ARSC is unique in bringing together private individuals and institutional professionals. Archivists, librarians, and curators representing many of the world’s leading audiovisual repositories participate in ARSC alongside collectors, dealers, researchers, historians, discographers, musicians, engineers, producers, reviewers, and broadcasters.

Supplementary education for audio-visual specialists and students is key to professional development as well as networking with individuals in one’s field of choice. For instance, The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) may be a good fit for film and video specialists whereas The Society of American Archivists (SAA) would benefit archivists of all kinds.

ARSC, however, is geared toward audiophiles, record collectors, and individuals who work with audio materials. ARSC members receive the ARSC Journal and Newsletter, discounted registration fees for the annual conference, as well as access to past conference recordings via the homepage.Topics from the 2014 conference ranged from southern folk music, to new open source preservation tools, to metadata, metadata, metadata.

Here’s a pitch from LaBudde Special Collections’ Metadata Librarian and Chair of the ARSC Membership Recruitment Task Force, Sandy Rodriguez:


Sound Archives Expand Services to Video Preservation

alaadeenSeveral months ago, the Marr Sound Archives purchased a shiny new Mac Pro with intentions of preserving the numerous video tapes held in some of our most noteworthy collections. With the assistance of Adobe Production Suite, a Black Magic Studio Pro, and a Panasonic AG-DS850p Video Cassette Recorder, we plan to digitize our degrading VHS and S-VHS collections. Upcoming video preservation and digitization projects include video footage from the Ahmad Alaadeen, Jay McShann, and Ruth Rhoden collections, among others.

Before we proceed, however, there are a number of factors to consider in the realm of video digitization standards as we document our procedures. Some colorfully hypothetical questions arise as a result.

“Frame rates, aspect ratios, bit depth, metadata… Video capture is so much more complicated than audio. Where do I start?”
“What’s the difference between a multimedia container and a codec? I thought they were the same thing!”
“How much digital storage should I procure for my digital video collection? Will it fit on this flash drive?”
“What makes my files lossless? Of course they are! I can see them right here on my desktop!”
“What makes something born-digital? If I was born in the 1960s, does that make me pre-digital?

Of course, the majority of these ridiculous questions may be answered with some simple independent research or even a shallow Google search. Doing so would reveal that best practice for video preservation depends on the quality of the source and the digital needs of the archive.

Marr Sound Archives has begin preserving VHS and SVHS cassettes from the Ahmad Alaadeen Collection.

Marr Sound Archives has begun preserving VHS and SVHS cassettes from the Ahmad Alaadeen Collection.

For example, the uncompressed, non-proprietary audio file format, Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) has become the standard for audio preservation. Video formats, on the other hand, provide evidence of standardizations that are constantly in flux. For instance, while many digital repositories may stick with a Quicktime file format (MOV) for its consumer accessibility in video, others may utilize the Material eXchange Format (MXF) for high definition film preservation. Depending on cost, storage availability, and the quality of analog source tapes, repositories must decide what best fits their needs.

Our video collection, for example, consists mostly of NTSC source tapes recorded from television or personal camcorder. Standard definition, interlaced Quicktime files with 24 bit, 48 kHz WAV audio will suffice as perfectly acceptable digital preservation copies.

Last week, The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) released a study comparing target formats for reformatting videotapes to digital files. In the study, FADGI’s Audio Visual Working Group considered what formats would produce an authentic and complete copy of the source, which formats maximized picture and sound reproduction, and which formats best supported research and access. They consider it a living document as new preservation technologies will continue to emerge.

Searching for Bob Dixon

2011-12-13_BobDixon_Goldin_MysteryManThe rumors started going around one morning at a staff party. Apparently, a recording of Bob Dixon at his Penn State University class reunion was found. With an alma mater and a date it would be a simple matter of looking him up at Penn State and moving on to other sources to verify his identity. This was surely the key to solving the mystery of Bob Dixon.

Bob Dixon recorded thousands of radio programs and personal home recordings, many of which were later acquired by J. David Goldin and donated as part of a larger collection of radio recordings to the Marr Sound Archives. His identity had been a mystery to us all. We heard his voice on recordings while he showed off his recording equipment to visitors and recorded various functions. However, he gave few other clues about himself. All we could determine was that he was likely in the Pittsburgh area given the large number of recordings from Pittsburgh stations such as KDKA, WJAS, and KQV. Also, he seemed to record many of the same programs repeatedly, in particular, music programs and news programs. Along the way he happened to record many important moments in history. Even J. David Goldin himself was unsure of his true identity. The recordings he explained in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, had been housed in sealed wooden crates that he purchased from a rare records dealer who in turn had purchased them from a Pittsburgh real estate agent who found the crates in the basement of a home in the Pittsburgh area. Along with those of us working on cataloging these discs, Mr. Goldin himself wished he knew more about this mysterious man. We all had similiar questions. What kind of man was he? More importantly, what possessed him to record thousands and thousands of radio programs and then leave them boxed up in a basement?

Hoping to finally get to the bottom of the mystery, I retrieved the class reunion recording and took a listen. In different parts of the recording Bob Dixon is heard introducing a good friend of his from his Penn State days and someone is heard mentioning the Class of 1922 reunion. However, a look at Penn State’s online yearbook for the class of 1922 revealed no person named Bob or Robert Dixon. How could this be? Did he not really graduate from Penn State? Or perhaps in a different year? It seemed to be a dead end. Then I remembered that my co-worker had remarked that one of the only things written on the record sleeve was “A.H.S.” “H.S.” was surely short for “high school,” and as a former Pittsburgh resident I immediately associated the “A” with “Allegheny.” If this was a reunion for the Allegheny High School Class of 1922, then it was likely that he graduated from Penn State four years later in 1926. Sure enough, a search of Penn State’s Class of 1926 yearbook turned up a picture of Robert Christian Dixon of Millvale, a suburb of Pittsburgh. After sharing the discovery with fellow team members, we set off on a flurry of searching. Each new piece of information yielded more excitement. Even an archivist from another university joined in on the searching. We discovered census records, a picture of Bob Dixon in his high school band, a listing of his amateur radio station, and a website by an old family friend containing several pictures and even recollections of Dixon’s recording equipment.

A brief biography of information we have compiled reveals that he was born Robert (Bob) Christian Dixon on September 1, 1903 to Harry H. Dixon and Nellie M. Dixon. His father was originally from Northern Ireland and worked in real estate, and later, as Director of the Poor for Allegheny County. The family resided in Millvale, Pennsylvania. Bob Dixon attened Allegheny High School where he managed the school band and later graduated from the College of Arts and Letters, Pennsylvania State University in 1926 where he was in Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He is listed as working in a real estate office at the age of 26. He had a wife name Petie, who was originally from West Virginia. He also operated an amateur radio station with the call signals 8CIR at 141 Evergreen St. in Millvale, likely his or his parents former home. Dixon died in February, 1980 in Pittsburgh.

While finally being able to know something about the life of the amazing man who made these recordings has been exciting and somewhat satisfying, the one question that we will all be left wondering is why. That is a question that will probably never be answered. I for one enjoy a little mystery and I am quite satisfied to just enjoy these amazing recordings that he left behind and to keep on wondering.

Timothy Gieringer, Goldin Project staff