Friday, September 16, 2011

The daily challenges of a sound archivist

Each job has its own intrinsic frustrations that comes as a given. The sound archivist in a broadcasting environment also has a fare share of daily frustrations. I will call it daily challenges.

Daily challenges of a sound archivist

  • Having to unlock a sound carrier without any information. There is no extra data on the cover, or inside. There is no information on the sound carrier itself. 

The cover of a reel-to-reel-tape (no indication of what is inside)

Inside: a reel-to-reel tape with a cryptic note: "Patrick Mynhardt reads  Herman Charles Bosman" Tape 1
But the sound differs from the note...

  • The sound carriers are degrading, and some we can't recover. The mini-disc carriers are some of the fastest degrading carriers, and we are unable to digitize it as it degrades.
mini-disc carrier
  • The sound recording and sound playback devices are going obsolete, and we are unable to get it serviced properly as well as get parts for broken items.
Reel-to-reel-tape Studer tape recorder
CD, MD and tape cassette machines stacked on top of each other
  • The journalists, programme producers and programme managers do not alert us to new programmes or special broadcasts or a change in the daily schedule. (Although we have asked to be kept in the loop.)
  • The journalists, programme producers and programme managers do not attach meta data or information about a programme on the sound being made available or on broadcast.
  • The public and journalists / producers expect us to be on top of a 24/7 broadcast feed, and to have it catalogued as well! It is impossible!
  • The digital world brings it own challenges. It is wonderful to have the audio available on the computer, but it does not help at all when the meta data was not added correctly. It is sometimes even more trickier to find out the origins of a piece of audio when it is only marked with temporary titles.
Dalet 5.1 Digital Audio System
  • Going to the shelve, and finding it empty. It has been removed for request purposes (hopefully) or else it means that it is lost. 
  • The request archivists deal with journalists who runs in at the last moment, and expect to find a sound clip to use asap. 
It is only some of the challenges that we face on a daily basis in the SABC Radio Archives. 
Can you add to this list?

Post by Karen du Toit, Afrikaans Archivist in the SABC Radio Archives.


  1. So true Karen! For me, time is the greatest enemy, so much to do, so little time! I would love to have everything we have in such an order that it is easily and immediately accessible, but alas, I must dream on... too few people, too few hours in the day! It is kind of like trying to eat an elephant one bite at a time, but the elephant doesn't stop growing, and grows faster than you can chew!

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