Information Bulletin no. 44, January 2003

IASA in South Africa

Arrangements for the IASA Conference in Pretoria are at an advanced stage and invitations will be going out shortly.

This will be the first time the annual conference is held in this part of Africa, and in particular South Africa. The theme of the conference is Audiovisual Archiving: Memory and Society. The venue is the Music Department at the University of Pretoria, in the heart of the city.

The university commenced its activities in 1908 with a staff of four professors and three lecturers as the Transvaalse Universiteitskollege (Transvaal University College). Thirty-two students enrolled for courses at the first campus, Kya Rosa, a house in the centre of the Pretoria. The University of Pretoria became a fully-fledged university in 1930.

Pretoria is the capital of South Africa and the Jacaranda Capital of the world, and is a place full of culture and history. It is a mix of ultramodern architecture and stately old buildings dating from its days as the capital of the Transvaal Republic. It is a picturesque city - its gardens and trees flourish in the fertile, well-watered soil of the Apies River valley - and springtime brings the spectacle of tens of thousands of flowering jacaranda trees. The mix of modern and historical is also found in many places of interest in the city. A variety of museums that preserve relics of days gone by and fascinating glimpses of up-to-minute scientific and industrial developments are to be seen.

A reminder of the conference dates: September 22 - 26.

IASA Technical Committee

Consultations with Manufacturers - George Boston reports

Originally, this was to have been a report to the IASA Conference in Aarhus of the Consultation with Manufacturers of Magnetic Tapes and Recordable Optical Disks held at UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris in June 2002. I quickly realised that such a limited report would be very short. Accordingly, I added to the subject matter by including a summary of the three previous Consultations that the IASA Technical Committee have taken part in. While drafting the paper, I realised that UNESCO was also represented at all the meetings and that the Consultations mirrored the development of the relationship between the two organisations.

The three earlier Consultations were held in Berlin in 1987, in Vienna in 1989, and in Paris in 1998. The Berlin Consultation was organised by Carlos Arnaldo, then the UNESCO Officer responsible for AV Archives, and Eva Orbanz of the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. The Consultation was one of two parallel meetings, the other being on training for AV archivists held after the second Joint Technical Symposium which, in turn, was held after that year's FIAF Congress.

The idea of links with industry was not new to UNESCO. Indeed, in the world of sound, a Mr Kudelski had approached UNESCO in their early days for funding to assist him in developing his new portable tape recorder, the NAGRA. It was a new idea to IASA, though. The members of the Technical Committee had, of course, had links with industry for many years but as individuals. Likewise they were recognised by the various salesmen, but again as individuals. There was no concept of the potential for archives to form an important group market for industry.

The response of the manufacturers represented at the Consultation was encouraging. They grasped the potential size of the market offered to them by the archive world. The problem facing them, however, was that the market was fragmented. For once, a strong recommendation came from industry to archives: set up some form of organisation to speak on behalf of AV archives on technical matters. Carlos Arnaldo took this cue and within 15 minutes of the end of the meeting had formed a group that became the Technical Co-ordinating Committee. The TCC was made up of representatives of the technical bodies in IASA, FIAF and FIAT, as well as the AV section of the ICA. IFLA was invited to participate but, although remaining very supportive, declined to take up their places.

The members of the TCC swiftly began work on a number of cross-NGO projects. It soon became clear, however, that the TCC could not work in isolation from its parent NGOs. Accordingly, the TCC was repositioned as a subcommittee of the Round Table of Audiovisual Records, the predecessor of the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archive Associations (the CCAAA).

With this repositioning came requests. The second Consultation was held in Vienna in 1989, partly as a result of suggestions from some members of the Round Table. The meeting was organised with support from UNESCO, IASA, and the International Council of Archives. The debate at the Consultation centred on magnetic tape. The problems we are now only too familiar with - sticky binders, vinegar syndrome etc - were then quite new to many technicians in IASA. The TCC had exposed sound and video technicians to the problems film technicians were faced with, and through them to the world of chemistry. This, in turn, had opened many new areas of concern for those normally concerned only with the problems of replaying mechanical disks and magnetic tapes. In addition, the advent of digital tape and optical discs in the form of the commercial CD and what was then the new recordable CD was leading to a major debate about the whole future of analogue tape. Increasing realisation of the need to move from a preservation strategy that concentrated on survival of the carrier to one that concentrated on survival of the information was also beginning to strike the collective consciousness.

The tape manufacturers were uncertain about the future of their market. One thing we were able to assure them about was that, in addition to the sale of some form of media for the continuing process of making new recordings of sounds and images, additional supplies of carriers would be needed for the transfer of old analogue recordings to new digital formats. When estimates were presented of the amount of material in stock that would need to be transferred, the manufacturers became very interested. What we were all uncertain about, however, was which carrier would be dominant. In some respects, we remain uncertain.

In 1989 the leading candidates for digital sound recordings were R-DAT and recordable CD. There were a few digital tape formats from companies such as Studer and Nagra but, compared with the various forms of recordable CD and R-DAT tapes, they were very expensive. The leading candidates were not problem free, though. Both R-DAT and CD-R were aimed primarily at the domestic market with its big sales figures. This meant that although the machines were noticeably cheaper than professional analogue machines and offered comparable quality, they were not as robust. In addition, many archive technicians were concerned about the possible sudden demise of the R-DAT format, as it was not selling well, and the life expectancy of the dyes used on recordable CDs was unknown.

One possible solution offering a long life for digital recordings was being marketed vigorously at the time. This was the Century Disc, a form of CD. It used a glass base with a gold reflective layer, the pits that carry the information being etched into the glass by a factory. This was not adopted, because of cost (around US$100) and manufacturing time (about a month for each disk).

The results of the second Consultation were, therefore, rather mixed. On one hand, the archives reinforced their collective links with industry: practical hints were exchanged, such as the idea of heating sticky tapes to make them playable. On the other hand, there were no great leaps forward in solving the problems of the day.

A number of years passed before the third Consultation was held. During that time, the TCC became defunct through lack of support. The AV archives were moved to a different section of UNESCO and Joie Springer replaced Carlos Arnaldo as the officer responsible. The Memory of the World Programme was begun, and with it the Subcommittee on Technology (SCoT). SCoT began to take over the co-ordinating role previously undertaken by the TCC, but with the addition of textual materials. The way forward for AV archives was becoming clearer, even if the cost of equipment was not yet within reach for all the collections.

The third Consultation was arranged at the Paris Headquarters of UNESCO in 1998 by the IASA TC with the support of SCoT and UNESCO. The topic was specifically quarter-inch analogue sound magnetic tape recorders. The Survey of Endangered Audio Carriers carried out by the IASA Technical Committee in 1995 had made clear the speed of withdrawal from the market of makers of audiotape machines. Accordingly, representatives of five of the remaining seven companies (from a peak of over 25) agreed to meet with members of IASA to explore ways of easing the problems facing archives.

The Survey had indicated that there were over 20 million hours of audio recordings held world wide on quarter-inch tape. (Later estimates give even greater quantities of material that will require transfer to new formats.) The vast majority of these recordings were unique. Faced with these figures, the manufacturers accepted that they had a moral obligation to help ensure the survival of the sounds. Nevertheless, they could not do this on a non-commercial basis. Sufficient return on their investment was needed to ensure the survival of the companies.

The discussions showed that the manufacture of a very small range of new machines would continue for perhaps ten years, with another five years' guaranteed supply of spare parts. Note that we are now five years into these time-scales. No spares would be discarded, but after the fifteen years (ten for making machines, five for guaranteed supply of spare parts the manufacture of new parts would probably cease.

This was a harsh message for the archives. In a limited survey done for the Consultation, many archives expected the transfer of their tapes to take at least fifteen years. Some larger archives, notably the Library of Congress, expected the work to take fifty years. In the case of the Library of Congress, fifty years - after they decide what to do. Last time I asked, they were still thinking about it.

At least archives had a clear understanding of the time scale they had to work to, before the cost of maintaining quarter-inch tape machines became increasingly expensive. What was not clear was how long the tapes in stock, and the CD-Rs and DVDs being used as the target medium for many of the transfers, would last. This was the cue for the fourth Consultation, held in Paris in June this year. Since this was to include video material and texts as well as sound, the lead organiser was the Subcommittee on Technology. FIAF and FIAT were invited to send technical representatives and we were joined by Denis Frambourt of INA and FIAT. Relations during the planning stages of the Consultation were very good between the officers of the SCoT and the IASA Technical Committees as they were the same people, Dietrich Schüller, and myself as Chair and Secretary respectively of both committees!

The topics were magnetic tapes and recordable optical disks; tapes of all types because there were increasing numbers of reports of problems in transferring the content of old tapes to new carriers: problems such as sticky shed of the oxide layer, fragile base polymers, even vinegar syndrome on acetate tapes. The archive technicians sought an exchange of information with tape manufacturers about problems. The industry admitted that they kept 'libraries' of old tapes and had information about suspect batches of tapes. However, they were concerned about causing the companies commercial embarrassment, if this information were to be made freely available. UNESCO stepped in to break the impasse by offering to act as a confidential channel for distribution of information.

Recordable optical disks are an increasing cause for concern, as the reliability is dropping as production levels of blank disks increase. The reliability of modern disks is not what it was when the format was new. In addition, the increase in reading and writing speeds has not helped to make burning of information onto the disks more reliable.

The manufacturers acknowledged the problem. They said it would not be difficult to make a more reliable disk tailored to a slower reading and writing speed. It was a question of demand and price. Verbatim are making a more reliable disk, the Ultra Life Plus, aimed at institutions such as banks. Mitsui also market a similar disk. Neither has been very successful commercially because, unlike archives, financial institutions do not require disks to last very long before they are superseded. The message to the marketing divisions of the company has, therefore, to be 'Look at the archives!'

In parallel with the need for a slower, more reliable disk is the need for a matched slower drive. Technically, this is not difficult. It requires retrieval of older design drawings from the archives and recreating the production line. It may be more difficult to achieve for commercial reasons, though. The market for these machines is likely to be relatively small so the price will be higher than most models in the shops. This may deter smaller institutions from buying them, which would result in smaller sales volumes and yet higher prices.

The result of the fourth Consultation is, like the second, rather mixed. The success of an exchange of information about suspect batches of tape may hinge on acceptance by the manufacturers of assurances about commercial confidentiality. Improvement in the reliability of blank CD-Rs is possible now by paying a little more for blank disks - about 20% more; very little compared with the other costs of transferring sounds. The supply of slower CD drives may be more difficult to achieve.

It was agreed at this Consultation that a Memorandum of Understanding should be drawn up and circulated for comment. This was drafted by Albrecht Haefner and circulated to all the manufacturers and archivists who attended the Consultation. Comments have been received and incorporated into the Memorandum. The revised document has been reissued with an invitation to the participants to sign and take part in future exchanges etc. The first signatures on the Memorandum are expected soon.

As you will have seen, these Consultations have helped to build bridges between archivists as a community and manufacturers of the equipment that we rely on to do our work. More Consultations will be held in the future. The Technical Committee has been discussing revisiting quarter inch tape machines, the discussion (with our colleagues in FIAF and FIAT) of the obsolescence of video recorders, and even - perhaps in the not too distant future - the obsolescence of computer storage systems.

Underlying all the words is the realisation that archives cannot work alone. We are symbiotically bound to the industry that both feeds from us and supports us. We have to work together, or we both are liable to fail.

New members

Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Chichiri House, Blantyre 3, Malawi
Mr Brighton Matewere, Director of Programmes, wrote: “As the national Broadcaster with 600 staff and the sole custodian of our audio archives collected over 40 years, we urgently need to gain knowledge on preservation.”

National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes ACT 2600, Australia
Chris Mertin says: “The National Library of Australia has the largest and most comprehensive Oral History and Folklore collection in Australia (35'000 hours). There are also important sound recordings associated with its Manuscripts collections and a small number of published sound recordings associated with particular print publications. However, for the majority of its audio collection the NLA holds the only copies of unique, unpublished material. The NLA is also responsible for PANDORA, a major initiative in the archiving and preservation of online digital materials which includes audiovisual material.”

IASA travel and research grants

There is still time to apply for travel grants for assistance to attend the Pretoria Conference in September.

The purposes of the travel grants are to encourage active participation at the IASA annual conferences by those who have no other funding, and to encourage continuing participation in the work of IASA.

Individuals submitting requests are required to be currently paid-up members of IASA and willing to participate in the work of IASA. Your application will be strengthened if you can demonstrate that such participation is current or planned.

IASA Committees may also consider bringing members from less developed countries to join the conference and share their experiences.

Funding for grants is limited, and they will cover only part of the costs involved.

Proposals for travel grants to attend the Vienna conference must be received by the Secretary General of IASA by the end of April 2003 in order to be considered.

Please send your application to:

IASA Secretary General, Eva Fønss-Jørgensen, State and University Library, Universitetsparken, DK-8000 Aarhus C. Fax: +45 8946 2022. eMail:

Research grants are also available to assist in special projects, and these are always open for application. Anyone planning a project that concerns the interests of IASA and requires start-up funding, or that requires financial support for work already under way, is invited to apply to the Secretary General in writing (see address above). Applications will be considered when the Board of IASA meets, so the next chance will be at its mid-year meeting in May, and then at the Annual Conference in September.

Musik-Almanach 2003-04

The Musik-Almanach 2003-04 has been issued.

Since 1986 the Musik-Almanach has been faced with the challenge of covering the whole of Germany's music life in all its breadth and variety. Now the German Council of Music has issued the sixth edition of this standard Reference work with more than 1,400 pages of facts, statistics and objective accounts of music in Germany. The country's highly ramified musical infrastructure is reflected in more than 10,000 entries on musical institutions and facilities. Included in the basic information presented are details on activities, achievements and organisational structure as well as mailing addresses, telephone numbers and web sites.

The data has been provided by the German Music Information Center, a division of the German Council of Music. The project's sponsors include the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (with funds provided by the Federal Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs), the City of Bonn, the German Musical Life Foundation, the German Copyright Society (GEMA), the Germany Performing Rights Society (GVL), and the Cultural Foundation of the Deutsche Bank.

The Musik-Almanach is a co-production of the Bärenreiter and Gustav Bosse publishing houses. The hardcopy and CD-Rom editions cost € 39.90 each or € 69.80 altogether.

For further information contact:

Deutsches Musikinformationszentrum
Tel.: ++49 (0)228/2091-180 (Mrs Schmidt)
Fax: ++49 (0) 228/2091-280

Joint IASA/FIAT/DELOS meeting, YLE, Helsinki

This year the annual joint IASA/FIAT meeting on digitisation will include DELOS. DELOS is a network of excellence on digital libraries. The meeting, hosted by YLE, will take place in Helsinki from April 35, 2003.

DELOS will arrange a workshop on 3 April on the theme “Preservation”, and on 4 and 5 April IASA and FIAT will arrange the meeting on digitisation of primarily radio and TV archives.

Please send your registration to Pekka Gronow, YLE, Helsinki, e-mail: by 14 March 2003 at the latest.

For more information please contact:

Per Holst, Chairman, Radio Sound Archives Section, c/o Danish Broadcasting Corp., Radio Archive Islands Brygge 81, DK-2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark, Phone: 45 3520 5554, Fax: 45 3520 5568,
Annemieke Jong:
Richard Wright:
Vittore Casarosa:
Seamus Ross:

Calendar of events

Date Event Location
March 14-15 IASA Mid-year Board meeting Pretoria, South Africa
March 22 25 114th AES Convention Amsterdam
April 3 5 Joint IASA/FIAT/DELOS meeting on digitisation Helsinki, Finland (YLE)
May 19-23 Second National Sound Archive Seminar Mexico City
May 28-31, 2003 37th Annual ARSC Conference Philadelphia, PA
July 6 - 11 IAML Conference Tallinn, Estonia
August 1 9 69th IFLA Council and General Conference
Access point library
September 6-10 FIAT/IFTA annual conference Brussels, Belgium
September 22-26 IASA annual conference Pretoria, South Africa
November Caribbean Seminar Jamaica
November 18 22 AMIA Conference Vancouver, Canada
January June (to be confirmed) Joint Technical Symposium Montreal, Canada
August 8 - 13 IAML-IASA joint Annual Conference Oslo, Norway
August 23 28 ICA Annual Conference Vienna
November 9 13 AMIA Conference Minneapolis, U.S.
September (2nd half) IASA Annual Conference Barcelona, Spain

This Information Bulletin was compiled by:

The Editor - Ilse Assmann,
SABC, PO Box 931, 2006, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, South Africa,
Tel: 27 (0)11 714 4041, Fax: 27 (0)11 714 4419, Email:

Language editor: Dorothy van Tonder, SABC
Printed and produced in South Africa by Heypenni Gold