Maybe you tripped over your Ramones record today and stumbled over a couple Black Keys albums while looking for that long-lost copy of Blonde on Blonde. Maybe some of your music is lost in the dark corners of your basement or closet.
But even if your music collection is a total mess, we bet it’s nothing compared to what’s up at the Library of Congress. Thirteen years ago, Congress passed the National Recording Preservation Act to clean up the Library of Congress’ audio archives. The act demanded that the Library “plan and coordinate a national effort to develop policies and programs to save our nation’s recorded sound history and ensure its accessibility to future generations.” This “sound history” includes everything from works of music to historical wire recordings and important speeches. It’s taken a while, but it looks like a plan has finally come together.
The 78-page document lists 32 recommendations on the preservation project from the National Recording Board. And the Library of Congress might be going digital. The plan does mention converting some physical recordings (Edison cylinders, lacquer discs, 8-tracks, CDs) to digital form. While it is a start, a project of this size (think the time you take cleaning your apartment and multiply it by 100,000) will take quite a bit of time. The new plan was announced by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who said, “We have good reason to be proud of our record of creativity in the sound-recording arts and sciences.”
However, Billington says, preservation efforts have not been the best thus far. “Radio broadcasts, music, interviews, historic speeches, field recordings, comedy records, author readings and other recordings have already been forever lost to the American people,” Billington said. The library guesses that about half of the cylinder recordings made have been lost over time. The New York Times noted that early Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland songs, along with a 1945 WWII transmission from the Enola Gay as it flew over Hiroshima, are among these losses.
Well, good luck cleaning all that up, Library of Congress. We’re going to tackle our bedrooms for now.
You can read more about the Library of Congress’ audio preservation plan here.