Intrinsic value

A related item is also to consider the application of the concept of determining whether or not archival recordings have “intrinsic value”. What is meant by this term is simply that all materials appraised for retention in archives, including sound recordings, do not have to be accepted and continue to be preserved in the original format. Some archival materials have intrinsic value, others do not. This means that applying the test of intrinsic value (and for the characteristics and qualities needed the reader is referred to Appendix D “Intrinsic value in archival materials”), applying the test can enable the appraiser to determine and recommend that once an acceptable archival quality copy is made then there is no obligation to continue to preserve the original recordings. This concept is worth considering for sound recordings. It can be applied at the time of appraisal and selection and restoration techniques are used on material that is archivally valuable for its information content alone.

For example, let us suppose you are offered a collection of audiotape recordings from the 1950s recorded on deteriorating acetate based tape stock. The appraiser applies his selection criteria for archival value including the test as to whether the recordings to be kept from the collection have any intrinsic value. It the archive items do not have any of the qualities or characteristics such as unique physical form or features; no aesthetic or artistic quality; no value for exhibits; no authenticity problem; no direct association with famous people, events or things; and so on, then the appraiser can recommend the original acetate recording be transferred to a new archivally accepted medium (whatever that may be) of equal quality and the original recordings can be considered for disposal.

Every archivist in a recorded sound collection would find it easy to pick out those groups of recordings that have an obvious intrinsic value and should be kept in their original form. We all have our versions of Mapleson cylinders, or Nixon White House tapes, where authenticity requires the originals to be kept; or our examples of kinetoscope cylinders -special or unique collections, which must be kept.

The concept and test of intrinsic value can be of most help in determining the retention or rejection of large groups and series of sound recordings where only the information is of value. An example of this would be the ABC radio collection of 27,000 discs already discussed; applying the criteria of intrinsic value to any part of this collection one would conclude that there are no recording of intrinsic value in that collection where any of the actual recording would have to be kept in original format once copies of archival quality had been made. National collections all have this type of material, thousands and thousands of hours on instantaneous discs and tapes, long-playing reference formats and mini-format cassettes of meeting and sessions of government legislatures and law-making bodies (whether national or international such as the united nations), or thousands of hours of certain radio series on glass-acetate transcription discs. Once this type of material has been re-recorded and preserved in an acceptable format according to archival standards there is no value in keeping and preserving the original material, thus avoiding costly conservation, restoration and storage costs.