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Stanford Media Preservation Lab as case study in audio preservation paper

October 24, 2014
Geoff Willard

This past August, the journal of the American Institute for Conservation published a paper by Sarah Norris titled "Toward An Ontology Of Audio Preservation" which features the Stanford Media Preservation Lab (SMPL) as a case study. SMPL is presented alongside the Guggenheim Museum and IRENE (Image, Reconstruct, Erase, Noise, Etc.), a non-contact digitization technique developed in 2003 by Dr. Carl Haber at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Norris' philosophical analysis of audio digitization approaches. 

In classifying our audio digitization work on a spectrum of authenticity, she has constructed a framework around our decisions that help illuminate the job that we do. What does Platonic or Aristotelian thinking mean in a preservation context? What does it mean to classify an object as allographic or autographic in nature? What are Eastern- and Western-style preservation values? The allographic, Eastern-style, Platonic logic side accepts reproduction and format change as an acceptable necessity in preserving authenticity; the autographic, Western-style, Aristotelian side maintains the original object as the ideal, and it considers reproduction and format change inauthentic and unacceptable. Can you guess which side SMPL is more weighted towards? I urge you to read her paper and find out where SMPL fits on this spectrum, and how we compare to her other two case studies.