Adventures in Audio Digitization

In early February 2017, Don Manildi, Curator of the International Piano Archives at Maryland (IPAM), wrote to Eric Cartier:

“IPAM recently received four 15ips (inches per second) 10.5 inch reels from one of our most important donors, pianist Margaret Leng Tan, containing a recital she played in NY back in 1982. She is hoping we can prepare a CD-R copy of the recital for her (and retain one for IPAM, too). Presumably, this could be accomplished most efficiently here in our studio,” thus began a challenging media reformatting request.

Don and Eric agreed to meet in the Performing Arts Audio Digitization Studio (PAADS) in early March 2017, to digitally reformat the magnetic tapes. PAADS had not been in use for many months, so Eric spent most of his initial visit testing playback equipment and monitors, checking software settings, and ensuring the source-to-destination chain was completely connected. Once everything was prepared and the first tape was threaded on the reel deck, however, he discovered it was affected by sticky shed syndrome. Polyester magnetic tape is susceptible to binder hydrolysis, which occurs when a tape collects water particles over time and adheres to itself. If the tape will play and is not permanently stuck, it usually squeals and can damage playback heads, or the recording layer of the tape will fall off when touching the heads, resulting in permanent loss of the sound recording. Having handled and transferred hundreds of open reel tapes in the past, Eric had never encountered tapes as severely sticky as these. Don and Eric conferred and, following standard practice in AV archives, decided to bake the tapes in a scientific oven at 120 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours, a process commonly used to dry out tapes and render them temporarily playable.

The tapes were still extremely sticky and unplayable and it was not possible to make transfers the following day. Eric added leader to the loose ends of each tape and fast forwarded them as far as possible, then rewound them and took photos of the visible deterioration (popped strands, slipped packs, resin-like ooze) to share with Don, Vin Novara, Curator of the Performing Arts Collection, and Eric’s supervisor, Robin Pike, Manager of Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting. He conducted research about the Scotch 226 tape stock, learning it is so notoriously sticky it almost single-handedly prompted the production of scientific ovens for baking tapes. The lone Memorex tape had no specific stock information, though. In fact, all four tapes lacked containers, which may have contained more descriptive or technical metadata.

Minimal metadata on the Tan Reels
An example of the minimal metadata provided with the Margaret Lang Tan reels.

Don encouraged Eric to write to the Association for Recorded Sound Collections listserv, to crowdsource information about what to do with excessively sticky tapes. The response was swift, and 12 people replied with advice, guidance, and stories. Robin wrote to George Blood, the accomplished audiovisual digitization guru and owner of George Blood Audio Video Film to solicit information to continue the endeavor in-house. The first word in his reply – “Yikes!” – followed by chemistry-based approaches to solve the problem. Eric baked the tapes a second time to see if an additional eight hours would yeild more promising results.

A photo documenting the extremely sticky residue on the tape
Extreme sticky shed syndrome

Eric found the tapes had slightly loosened, but that upon playback, all four eventually began to squeal and stopped playing despite 16 total hours of baking. He noted the exact times at which the tapes stopped, as well as distinctive problems (e.g., the Memorex reel was warped and scraped the length of one side of the flange each time it turned). Eric considered the tapes unrecoverable in-house and Robin worked with our contracted vendor to send the tapes for more involved stabilization and digitization.

GBAVF shared helpful updates via email throughout the process. After storing the tapes in a low humidity vault for a while, they rehoused them, “auditioned” them, discovered the high quality of the recording, cleaned the tapes, and then made expert transfers in late April. In early May, Eric inspected the quality of the digital files and uploaded the MP3s to ShareStream, our streaming media manager; student digitization assistants made double-disc sets for Don and the donor. Bria Parker, Head of Discovery and Metadata Services, prepared the metadata record and Josh Westgard, Systems Libraries, archived the preservation master files, then ingested the metadata and the streaming files to Digital Collections, completing the project. Later this summer, Don listened closely to the entire recording and prepared a detailed track listing, which Josh modified in the XML. After much time, effort, and collaboration, we freed the valuable content from the problematic carriers, described it in great detail, and made it available to the creator and the public.

We are pleased to provide Margaret Leng Tan’s April 1982 recital in its digital form: http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/39411.

Digitizing and Using the David C. Driskell Collection

The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, honors the legacy of David C. Driskell. He is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Art, Artist, Art Historian, Collector, Curator, and Philanthropist, and the Center seeks to preserve the rich heritage of African American visual art and culture.

One page of a letter regarding travel.
Document documenting travel

The African American History, Culture, and Digital Humanities (AADHum) project brings African American studies and digital humanities together in order to expand upon both fields, making the digital humanities more inclusive of African American history and culture and enriching African American studies research with new methods, archives, and tools. Our digitization efforts have been directly focused on supplying new resources for scholarly engagement by providing digitized materials from the Driskell Center for both public use as well as use by scholars engaged with the AADHum project.

In the third digital humanities incubator hosted by the Maryland Institue for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), participants used digitized images from the pilot digitization on this project, as well as from other sources, to build narratives using the ArcGIS StoryMap Tool. StoryMap allows the integration of objects and maps, enabling rich visual explorations and analysis of a collection–for example, where was the art created, where was it collected and displayed, and by whom? In the 2017-2018 series of Digital Humanities Incubators (DHIs), participants will continue to explore Black Movement(s) and engage with the histories and resources of the local DC-Maryland-Virginia area. In some of these projects, we expect the digitized material from the Driskell collection to be highlighted.

Stew of the month: September 2017

Welcome to a new issue of Stew of the Month, a monthly blog from Digital Systems and Stewardship (DSS) at the University of Maryland Libraries. This blog provides news and updates from the DSS Division. We welcome comments, feedback and ideas for improving our products and services.

Digitization Activities

Historic Maryland Newspapers Project

Rebecca Wack submitted batch cumberland to the Library of Congress and through batch j to the digitization vendor; two more batches will be submitted to the vendor in October.

Wack and Robin Pike submitted the second interim report to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress detailing the grant progress and outreach accomplishments over the past six months.

Wack formed a Twitter group of NDNP state awardees for monthly campaigns to occur the second Tuesday of the month under the hashtag #ChronAmParty. The first campaign will be #CreepyNews and will highlight Halloween historic news.

Synergies Among African American History and Culture (AADHum)

Scott Pennington completed quality assurance on the deliverables from batch 1 and the 15 audiotapes from the David C. Driskell Center. He will share the enhanced metadata from all batches with SCUA and Driskell Center staff to enhance current collection guides.

Other Digitization Activities

Rebecca Wack worked with Vin Novara (SCPA) to write and submit a Letter of Inquiry for a Grammy Museum Foundation Preservation Implementation Grant to preserve and digitize a portion of “The Listening Room,” a radio program from the Robert Sherman Collection.

Robin Pike and other Digitization Initiatives Committee members revised the procedures and proposal form for FY19 digitization project proposals to account for an increased emphasis on the staff and financial resources required of preservation activities before digitization. These revisions will be presented at the October 19 Library Assembly meeting when the call for proposals opens.

Pike shipped the following digitization projects to vendors, beginning the FY18 digitization cycle: Spiro Agnew audio recordings, Athletics videotapes, The Black Explosion student newspaper, Arthur Godfrey films, and serials from the Mass Media and Culture collection area.

Eric Cartier began meeting with SCPA and SCUA collection managers to begin planning the 2018 calendar year in-house digitization projects. He also worked with experienced student assistants to train new and returning student assistants to begin in-house audio digitization, enabling the completion of more requests and projects in-house.

Cartier and Digitization Assistants also completed digitizing materials for the physical and virtual Labor Exhibit, which opened October 6.

Digital  Programs and Initiatives

Digital Collections

Now that the Diamondback Student Newspapers project is well underway (with the FY 2016 data having been loaded and released), Joshua Westgard has begun work on the data handler for the Katherine Anne Porter Correspondence. Because of the modular design of the batchload client developed by DPI and SSDR, the only section of the code that needs modification is the piece that interprets the original data and assembles it into repository objects. Work on the FY2017 Diamondback data continues in parallel to the work on the KAP project.

New Additions to DRUM

Almost 300 theses and dissertations from UMD summer 2017 graduates have recently been deposited in DRUM bringing the total to more than 13,000. Here’s the breakdown of new entries by college:

82 – A. James Clark School of Engineering
21 – College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
41 – College of Arts & Humanities
46 – College of Behavioral & Social Sciences
67 – College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences
18 – College of Education
3 – College of Information Studies
4 – Philip Merrill School of Journalism
6 – Robert H. Smith School of Business
2 – School of Architecture, Planning, & Preservation
6 – School of Public Health
2 – School of Public Policy

Check out the latest research from UMD grads at the UMD Theses and Dissertations Collection in DRUM.

Reports from the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) have recently been deposited in DRUM (http://hdl.handle.net/1903/19607). Administered by the National Center for Smart Growth Research & Learning, PALS is designed to provide low-cost assistance to local governments while creating real-world problem-solving experiences for UMD students. Faculty incorporate the jurisdiction’s specific issues as part of their course and students use the classroom concepts to complete these sustainability-focused projects. Students gain experience while working with a real client and produce a useful product for the partner city or county. Currently all reports in DRUM are restricted to campus-use only but, as permissions are obtained, the access restrictions will be lifted.

Open Journal Systems Upgrade Planning

DPI Graduate Assistant Carlos Alvarado is investigating updating our electronic journal publishing platform to the latest software version, in close collaboration with Terry Owen, Josh Westgard, and Kate Dohe.  Open Journal Systems (OJS) 3.0 represents a significant upgrade effort, with substantial changes to the user interface for editors and authors, as well as modernized, responsive journal templates for readers.

Software Development

Fedora Content Repository

The UMD Student Newspapers public interface is now available, with digitized versions of The Diamondback student newspaper from 1910-1971.  This interface is built using Fedora Content Repository, IIIF, Mirador, Solr, and Hippo CMS technologies.

ArchivesSpace

We have deployed ArchivesSpace 2.1 which contains the overhauled Public User Interface.  Planning is now underway for the changes necessary to release this as the preferred public access to Archival Collections beginning in January.

Hippo

Work continued on the Libi staff intranet replacement and the upgrade to Hippo version 11. Hippo 11 is planned for release at the end of October.

Reciprocal Borrowing

We added new features in Reciprocal Borrowing 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 which are currently in the user testing pipeline.  These support a change from using Shibboleth affiliation attributes to a reciprocal borrowing specific entitlement attribute for checking member eligibility to participate in the program.

USMAI (University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions) Library Consortium

The CLAS team responded to 122 Aleph Rx submissions and 35 e-resource requests from across the consortium’s libraries in September.

Aleph Session Fixation Issue Resolved

One of the oldest, unresolved Aleph Rx tickets, #11311, was resolved in September. This fixed a longstanding security issue in the Aleph OPAC.

Aleph Inventory Functionality

At the request of several USMAI libraries, CLAS has been investigating Aleph’s inventory functionality in order to determine the feasibility of implementing this functionality and assessing its usefulness USMAI libraries that wish to conduct inventories of their collections. Following CLAS’ initial investigation, a short term working group will be formed to review the available functionality, document recommended workflows, and assess any gaps in functionality.

Problem Reporting Forms Migration

CLAS hosts several HTML forms for use by USMAI, mostly for submission of requests and issues by staff at USMAI libraries but also some end-user forms. Work is currently underway to migrate these forms to our form system Wufoo. This will give the forms a new look, allow us to take advantage of some more modern form functionality, and simplify the process of modifying the forms. As we migrate these, we’ll also review the forms to make sure they collect necessary information effectively. And, we’ll get feedback from form users to make sure they meet the needs of USMAI.

MD-SOAR

The development of autosuggest functionality for subjects and formats on the MD-SOAR submission form has been completed and released in production. The autosuggest feature will allow users submitting records to choose from already submitted metadata values, which will minimize variations in metadata values, resulting in better discovery.

More batch loads were completed for Salisbury in September. The remainder will be completed in early October. The process was slowed by the discovery of a bug in the DSpace process for creating thumbnails. This bug is expected to be fixed in the upgrade to DSpace v6, currently scheduled to start in mid-October. These new collections and other recently submitted items can be viewed in MD-SOAR’s list of recent submissions.

Staffing

DCMR welcomed two new student assistants. Maggie McCready works for Eric Cartier in the Hornbake Digitization Center and Maya Reid began working on the Office of Research, Planning and Assessment office records digitization project; both are first semester students in the College of Information Studies specialized in archives.

Conferences, workshops and professional development

David Dahl attended the Maryland Research and Education Network’s annual symposium on September 29th.

Rebecca Wack, Robin Pike, and Doug McElrath (SCUA) attended the National Digital Newspaper Program Awardees Conference September 11-13 in Washington, DC. Pike presented on performing copyright research on newspapers published between 1923-1963 and McElrath presented on performing outreach to genealogical communities.

Kate Dohe’s article with Erin Pappas (University of Virginia Libraries) “The many flavors of ‘yes’: Libraries, collaboration, and improv” was published in the September issue of College & Research Libraries News. During the month of September it was among the most-viewed articles in the online issue.

On Oct. 3-4, several DSS staff members participated in the semi-annual DC Area Fedora User Group meeting held at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Ben Wallberg introduced the recently released Diamondback Student Newspapers interface, and Peter Eichman gave a presentation on his work developing RDF content models for OCR text using the W3C Web Annotation Standard.  In addition to being the primary organizer of the meeting, Joshua Westgard presented on three topics: (1) the newly formalized Fedora API, and the API alignment sprints recently undertaken by the Fedora community, (2) a Python-based batchload client developed by UMD, and (3) the import/export feature and tooling developed by the Fedora community.  The meeting highlighted both the recent progress in the Fedora community toward meeting the challenges of building reliable, flexible, and scalable repository services, and also the significant contributions made by the UMD Libraries toward achieving those goals.

David Durden and Kate Dohe attended the Research Data Management Implementations Workshop in Arlington, VA on September 14-15.

David Durden presented on the topic of Data Librarianship to new UMD iSchool students in Beth St. Jean’s course, “Serving Information Needs” (LBSC 602), on October 3, 2017. He introduced concepts and skills typical to data librarian positions, and highlighted iSchool courses that would prepare students for work in data curation and management.

Visits