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The Safeguard of Audio Collections: A Computer Science Based Approach to Quality Control—The Case of the Sound Archive of the Arena di Verona

DOI: 10.1155/2013/276354

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In the field of multimedia, very little attention is given to the activities involved in the preservation of audio documents. At the same time, more and more archives storing audio and video documents face the problem of obsolescing and degrading media, which could largely benefit from the instruments and the methodologies of research in multimedia. This paper presents the methodology and the results of the Italian project REVIVAL, aimed at the development of a hardware/software platform to support the active preservation of the audio collection of the Fondazione Arena di Verona, one of the finest in Europe for the operatic genre, with a special attention on protocols and tools for quality control. On the scientific side, the most significant objectives achieved by the project are (i) the setup of a working environment inside the archive, (ii) the knowledge transfer to the archival personnel, (iii) the realization of chemical analyses on magnetic tapes in collaboration with experts in the fields of materials science and chemistry, and (iv) the development of original open-source software tools. On the cultural side, the recovery, the safeguard, and the access to unique copies of unpublished live recordings of artists the calibre of Domingo and Pavarotti are of great musicological and economical value. 1. Introduction Considerable efforts have been spent on the preservation of sound archives over the past decades (see [1, 2] for an overview), and a variety of methodologies and best practices are currently made available by the international community (see [3–6]). The importance of audio recordings (speech and music) as documentary sources for disciplines such as linguistics, musicology, ethnomusicology, anthropology is fully recognized today. But, unlike other cultural materials such as books and paintings, the Life Expectancy (LE) of audiovisual documents is very short; that is, it can be measured in decades rather than in centuries. In addition, the problem of preservation of audio and video is increasingly overshadowed by the problems of the obsolescence of the technology used to access them [7]. In their experience with real-world archives, the authors found that an overall underestimation of the importance of quality control during the process of remediation (the process of transferring the acoustic information from a medium onto another medium) affects many digitization projects as well as their output. The main reason for this underestimation is that traditional actors of cultural institutions are unprepared against complex problems with a strong


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