It is useful at this point to consider the question of reappraisal and further selection and weeding of sound recordings already on deposit in our sound archives. It is often the case with the collection of all AV materials including those of recorded sound, that material is accessioned, acquired, or gathered over the years without ever having a proper evaluation. Historically, many archival collections have been formed as reference collections for one purpose or another and only later have they evolved into an archive with preservation materials and responsibilities. Thus it is a necessity that we must consider re-examining, reappraising, and re-evaluating sound recordings already accessioned and sitting undisturbed and deteriorating on our shelves. And let us face it, the longer they are there, the more they gain a cloak of respectability. They become old friends and we seldom think to question why they are there in the first place.

Reappraisal may be necessary because, perhaps, the original appraisal was faulty. Material was thought to be worthy of accessioning, when in fact, by the standards of the time of appraisal they were not. Or the appraiser judged the material correctly by the appraisal standards of the time, but standards have changed and by today’s standards they are not worth keeping. But most often, as we know, material is accessioned without any really careful appraisal. Demands on time, shortage of staff, pressure from the agency or donor, the particular and, perhaps, peculiar collecting focus or mania of certain archivists, officials and administrators or the lack of a well-defined acquisition policy all contribute to the fact that we have collections of sound recordings occupying space in our archives that need to be re-evaluated. Reappraising is most important, especially prior to spending preservation funds or going through the cataloguing procedure. It is possible to perform a full reappraisal or in some instances put forth a set of guidelines that can be used for dealing with previously accessioned materials. The National Archives has put together a draft document, a compilation of criteria distilled from the selection criteria in GRS 21 and on-job experience, and formatted into a physical format category and subject matter category. Refer to Appendix C .

The reappraisal suggestion is a healthy one for any recorded sound collection and should help to determine the priorities for preservation in different collections of sound recordings. It may be heretical to say so but all accessioned sound recordings in our collections are not of equal value; why then should they be given equal preservation treatment or even equal storage space. There are different preservation options available. Perhaps it is time to abandon the idea of retaining all sound recordings in the best possible quality, in the original speed and track format, in exchange for the ability to keep quantities of material readily available for access and reference use. It might mean in effect that we have to consider the trade-off between preservation according to high quality standard (i.e. expensive) of a small amount of rigidly selected material versus a system of conservation and retention for the records, sacrificing quality for the ability to retain a maximal portion of the recorded sound heritage of the twentieth century. After all, preservation techniques are really designed to extend public access are they not, to a public remote to our time if not geographically remote so that our successors have as much right to the products of our culture as we do.