Audio Guidance: Condition of Materials and Storage
How Do I Know If My Materials Are In Good Condition?
Audio: Condition Assessment
See tables for each media type:
- Grooved Recordings Condition Assessment
- Magnetic Media Audio Condition Assessment
- Optical Disc Condition Assessment
Life expectancy of audio media is dependent on factors including:
It is difficult to accurately predict a media’s usable life span. This is further complicated by the fact that media can change considerably between manufactured batches. But history has at least given some indication of what to expect.
- Magnetic tapes stored under archival conditions (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration example) generally have a life span of about 10 to 50 years before exhibiting difficult to handle decay. Somewhere in the middle is most common. Those stored under lesser conditions and not handled carefully will probably have a significantly shorter life span.
- Grooved recordings vary in composition and life expectancy. In general laminated discs tend to be shorter lived. Wire recordings, aluminum discs, and LPs/45s can last possibly for generations if kept under favorable conditions and handled well.
- Optical media come in two general categories: recordable and pressed. Pressed are generally fairly durable and can last possibly for generations if kept under favorable conditions and handled well. Recordable optical media have widely varying life expectancies. It is not entirely uncommon to have some unreadable discs in less than 1 year. Relying on recordable discs to last for generations is probably not viable. Note however that there are manufacturers creating discs intended for archiving using more inert recording and/or reflective layers. One such new technique uses a “glassy carbon” type recording layer as opposed to organic dyes.
See the Image Permanence Institute calculators to view how varying temperature, relative humidity, and dew points relate and affect life expectancy.
Information for Grooved Recordings
- Care, Handling, and Storage of Audio Visual Materials From the Library of Congress
- The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States From the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and The Library of Congress
- Preserving Gramophone Discs From the National Archives of Australia
- Sound Savings: Preserving Audio Collections From the University of Texas at Austin
Information for Magnetic Media
- FACET: The Field Audio Collection Evaluation Tool By Mike Casey, Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University
- The Preservation of Magnetic Tape Collections: A Perspective From the Image Permanence Institute
- Restoration Tips & Notes, Media Formats & Resources By Richard L. Hess
Information for Optical Discs
- Conditions that Affect CDs and DVDs From the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)
- Protect Your DVDs and CDs From the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources