Sound Directions: Digital Audio Preservation and Access for Global Audio Heritage


Examples of recording formats used by
fieldworkers from the 1890s to the present

Sound archives have reached a critical point in their history marked by the simultaneous rapid deterioration of unique original materials, the development of powerful new digital technologies, and the consequent decline of analog formats and media. Motivated by these concerns, in February 2005 the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music and the Archive of World Music at Harvard University began Phase 1 of Sound Directions: Digital Preservation and Access for Global Audio Heritage - a joint technical archiving project with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. One major goal of the project was to test emerging standards and develop best practices for audio preservation.


Phase 1 of Sound Directions produced four key results:

  • A publication of our findings and best practices entitled Sound Directions: Best Practices for Audio Preservation that is available from this website
  • The development of much needed software tools for audio preservation
  • The creation or further development of audio preservation systems at each institution
  • The preservation of a number of critically endangered and highly valuable recordings
The project created a number of software tools that may be placed into service including the Harvard Sound Directions Toolkit - a suite of forty open-source, scriptable, command line interface tools that streamline workflow, reduce labor costs, and reduce the potential for human error in the creation of preservation metadata and in the encompassing preservation package. To aid selection for preservation, Indiana University developed the Field Audio Collection Evaluation Tool (FACET), which is a point-based, open-source software tool for ranking field collections for the level of deterioration they exhibit and the amount of risk they carry. These tools are available from this website.
Indiana also developed the Audio Technical Metadata Collector (ATMC) software for collecting and storing technical and digital provenance metadata. Harvard also produced Audio Object Manager for audio object metadata creation and Audio Processing XML Editor (APXE) for collection of digital provenance metadata. These tools will be released later after further development.


The Sound Directions project is now engaged in a "Preservation Phase" funded by NEH at Indiana University and privately at Harvard University. In addition to preserving as many of our collections as possible, this phase of the project will include research into methods of increasing throughput within our preservation systems as well as further development of the metadata tools described above for public release.

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