Using AVDb to Survey the Audio Collections of the Computer Music Center at Columbia University
History of the Center <ul><li>Founded in 1959, by composers Otto Luening & Vladimir Ussachevsky (Columbia) and Milton Babb...
RCA MK II Synthesizer
What’s in the archives? <ul><li>My first task was to conduct an overall inventory of the collection, to see what was there...
What’s in the archives? <ul><li>5,569 sound recordings (299 linear feet) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4,859 are open-reel tap...
OK…anything else? <ul><li>??? </li></ul>
Well….gears to control the RCA MK II synthesizer…
… tape splicing blocks…
… slides…
… punched paper rolls that generated music…
… divas…
… music scores, and more.
So, where to begin…?
So, where to begin…? <ul><li>Different areas of collection have different priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Documents  need con...
Preservation is a  precondition  to access
Inventory  and  condition survey  are a  precondition  to  preservation
What is AVDb? <ul><li>AVDb is a free tool to survey audiovisual collections (Columbia Preservation Division) </li></ul><ul...
What data is gathered? <ul><li>Information on: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>overall condition of the media and the container ...
How was the survey done? <ul><li>In consultation with the Head of Preservation, we determined that a sample size of  350 i...
Back into the archives!
How was AVDb to use? <ul><li>Not  practical for tight spaces </li></ul><ul><li>I designed my own input form for on-site us...
What were the results? <ul><li>The survey counted: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>31 sound cassettes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><u...
What were the results? <ul><li>Overall condition ratings  are from 1 (very good) to 5 (very poor).  Preservation priority ...
Some observations on the data <ul><li>Sound cassettes ranked highest in preservation priority  due to the DAT format </li>...
After all, we’ve seen the pictures…
… However… <ul><li>In the detailed report on preservation priority for tape reels,  208 of 295 (70%) were ranked 4 (high p...
Conclusions <ul><li>AVDb is a useful tool, good for non-experts </li></ul><ul><li>Ratings are useful, but attention should...
Thank You!
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Using AVDb to survey the CMC archives

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Using AVDb to survey the CMC archives

  1. 1. Using AVDb to Survey the Audio Collections of the Computer Music Center at Columbia University
  2. 2. History of the Center <ul><li>Founded in 1959, by composers Otto Luening & Vladimir Ussachevsky (Columbia) and Milton Babbitt and Roger Sessions (Princeton) </li></ul><ul><li>Originally Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center </li></ul><ul><li>Assisted by Rockefeller Foundation grant </li></ul><ul><li>Became important studio for electronic music both in U.S. and internationally </li></ul>
  3. 3. RCA MK II Synthesizer
  4. 4. What’s in the archives? <ul><li>My first task was to conduct an overall inventory of the collection, to see what was there, and to then be able to make some decisions on what portion of the collection needed the most immediate attention… </li></ul><ul><li>… many hours of counting and inventory go by… </li></ul>
  5. 5. What’s in the archives? <ul><li>5,569 sound recordings (299 linear feet) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4,859 are open-reel tapes ( 87% of total recordings) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>700 are other formats (DATs, records, etc.) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Content includes key early works of electronic music, composer discussions, recordings of Composers Forum concerts, and work tapes of the Center’s composers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>ca. 72 linear feet of printed documents and manuscripts </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Administrative records, correspondence, personal papers, music scores and manuscripts, valentines, doodles, limericks, and more… </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. OK…anything else? <ul><li>??? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Well….gears to control the RCA MK II synthesizer…
  8. 8. … tape splicing blocks…
  9. 9. … slides…
  10. 10. … punched paper rolls that generated music…
  11. 11. … divas…
  12. 12. … music scores, and more.
  13. 13. So, where to begin…?
  14. 14. So, where to begin…? <ul><li>Different areas of collection have different priorities </li></ul><ul><li>Documents need control and access </li></ul><ul><li>Recordings need control and preservation </li></ul>
  15. 15. Preservation is a precondition to access
  16. 16. Inventory and condition survey are a precondition to preservation
  17. 17. What is AVDb? <ul><li>AVDb is a free tool to survey audiovisual collections (Columbia Preservation Division) </li></ul><ul><li>Built on a Microsoft Access database, and requires Windows </li></ul><ul><li>Designed for use by non-experts </li></ul><ul><li>Allows collection- to item-level survey </li></ul><ul><li>It is a visual survey tool; no playback involved </li></ul><ul><li>Uses a system of weighted ratings to generate rankings for overall condition, preservation priority, environmental condition, and more </li></ul>
  18. 18. What data is gathered? <ul><li>Information on: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>overall condition of the media and the container </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>specific media problems (shedding, cupping, spoking, etc.) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the environment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>media characteristics (tape stock, recording speed, etc.) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>titles and dates </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>timings </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. How was the survey done? <ul><li>In consultation with the Head of Preservation, we determined that a sample size of 350 items would be adequate for the 5,569 recordings </li></ul><ul><li>I used systematic random sampling , meaning that I worked through the collection, sampling every 16 th recording </li></ul>
  20. 20. Back into the archives!
  21. 21. How was AVDb to use? <ul><li>Not practical for tight spaces </li></ul><ul><li>I designed my own input form for on-site use </li></ul><ul><li>Identifying, retrieving, and surveying an item took an average of 3 minutes per item </li></ul><ul><li>Inputting the data from the survey forms took an average of 1.5 minutes per item </li></ul><ul><li>This works out to just over 26 hours </li></ul>
  22. 22. What were the results? <ul><li>The survey counted: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>31 sound cassettes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>295 sound tape reels </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>11 sound discs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>7 sound optical discs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>6 videocassettes </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. What were the results? <ul><li>Overall condition ratings are from 1 (very good) to 5 (very poor). Preservation priority ratings are from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high). </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>sound cassettes 3.94 / 3.68 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>sound tape reels 2.81 / 3.68 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>sound discs 2.57 / 3.65 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>sound optical discs 2.57 / 3.16 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>videocassettes 3.17 / 3.35 </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Some observations on the data <ul><li>Sound cassettes ranked highest in preservation priority due to the DAT format </li></ul><ul><li>I was surprised by the overall condition rating of 2.81 (good) for tape reels… </li></ul>
  25. 25. After all, we’ve seen the pictures…
  26. 26. … However… <ul><li>In the detailed report on preservation priority for tape reels, 208 of 295 (70%) were ranked 4 (high priority) </li></ul><ul><li>So, that dimension seemed to “ring true”. </li></ul><ul><li>I think that the survey tool is useful for providing a measured perspective to a visceral response </li></ul>
  27. 27. Conclusions <ul><li>AVDb is a useful tool, good for non-experts </li></ul><ul><li>Ratings are useful, but attention should be paid to how they are being calculated (details are provided) </li></ul><ul><li>Some results may seem counterintuitive, until looked at more closely (DATs) </li></ul><ul><li>Some enhancements are needed to reporting functions, and to user interface </li></ul>
  28. 28. Thank You!
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