Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Wednesday - 5/25/2016 - 10 am -12 pm

Today is the first day of spool inspection, which I have no idea how to do. When inspecting film it is exceedingly easy to simply roll through the film, find areas that will more than likely break and repair those areas. Well, that does not really work for the wire spools. One thing to note is the sheer length of the wire. Assuming that most of these are one hour spools -- which may or may not be the case -- and assuming that they play at the standard speed of 24 inches a second then these wires can be up to 7,200 feet long or 1.36 MILES! Obviously hand inspection goes out the window at this point so as an alternative I went through the spools to find any obvious problem spools.

In doing this I took a few pictures that go through was is normal and good and also what is obviously a very broken spool that likely will not be playable.

This is what a typical spool will look like right out of the canister. Often the labels are very faded on the outside. Fortunately, when they were first processed at the archives the labels were copied down on the finding aids. Note the condition of the wire on the spool. It is unrusted and tightly wound, there are no obvious broken areas. I suspect this spool will be easy to work will and run through the machine when the time comes.

There is no real consensus that I can find about how to hold the wire when stored. Many of these were just loose and this did not work very well, the wire would unspool when taken out of the canister. My solution is simply to affix the loose end of the wire to the bottom of the spool with some archival tape meant for film. 

This gives some idea of the small gauge of wire being dealt with. I am not sure exactly what gauge it is -- or if it even corresponds to modern gauge measurements -- but it is very thin. Working with these wires means that there are going to be many little fingertip stabs much like when working with lower gauge guitar string.

This is a spool that has seen better days, in fact this is the second worse one that I have come across. Below the paper that is surrounding the spool are an absolute rat's nest of tangled and broken wires. I did not remove the paper for the picture because it would just go everywhere. I will probably try to attempt to at least salvage the last bit that is still spooled, but the areas that have broken off will likely be lost as I have no idea what order they would be in to splice it back together.

In going through the spools I only found two which are perhaps too far gone to be digitized, one for sure is completely gone. There were many spools that seem like they are perfect and about a third of the spools seem to be broken in at least some way -- when you pull the spool out of the canister and can see more than one loose end you know this is the case -- but hopefully these will be easy to repair once I get the hang of it. Splicing only consists of using a square-knot to tie the ends together, so I have my fingers crossed that that process is friendly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday - 5/24/2016 - 11 am -1 pm

Today was the first day to actually handle the spools we have here. They total three boxes with 14 reels in box 122, these are interviews regarding the Kansas city flood. Box 123 will be the big one as I understand it. These would for the most part be the Holocaust spools. Some seem not to be such as several spools that seem to be recorded radio programs from 1945 and 1946. However these 17 spools may include some interviews and recordings that are not available to the public yet, at least I am hoping. The spools are not very well labeled so I am not sure what interviews are on what spools. The final box, box 124, has spools labeled Case Study Sylvia. There are 17 of these spools, they all seem to be from 1951. I am unsure what these are or what is on them. Once I pull some of the Boder papers I should have some sort of indication.

After going through the spools and taking stock of what is in the boxes I moved on to seeing just what the Library of Congress has in the way of the Boder recordings. I went through their catalog and found the entries for the recordings. They are all listed by the name of who is being interviewed, these do not link up with the way the spools we have are labeled. As a result I could not easily compare what we have compared to what they have. This will be a task I will have to undertake after the digitization of these audio spools.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Monday - 5/23/2016 - 10 am -12 pm

Today was spent gathering background information on both the technology that this project involves as well as the man that it focuses on. I spent about the first hour going over the history of wire recorders and magnetic media in general. It was somewhat surprising, however, to find that pretty much all online sources for information were almost verbatim of one another. It seems like there are just a few sources for information that all these sites were picking from. I'll have to pick up at least one of those books particularly the Magnetic Recording Handbook by Marvin Camras. Camras, incidentally, invented many of the improvements that the wire recorder would go through in the 1940s as well as being considered the father of most type of magnetic media such as tape and even floppy disks.

The rest of the time today was devoted to reading up on David Boder himself, this actually included listening to an episode of This American Life from October 26, 2001 entitled "Mr. Boder Vanishes." This program had much to do with the rediscovery of his research and also of the recording that he did following the Holocaust. At first little importance was put on Boder's work and by the time people realized the importance the recordings had mostly vanished. I actually want to do a little digging and see where we got the collection from (or at the very least the recordings, especially if they are the originals).