An interdisciplinary solution to sound recording preservation

September 22, 2016
Nathan Coy
Image of John Wayne paper based disc

Earlier this year the Stanford Media Preservation Lab and Conservation Lab were tasked with figuring out how to playback severely warped paper based disc sound recordings. The recordings in question are from a three disc set titled Man-Talk by Three Great Western Stars and each one-sided disc in the set features a single monologue by John Wayne, Bill Elliott, or Johnny Mack Brown.

As can be seen in the photos at the bottom of the article the discs were so severely warped there was no possibility of conventional playback. So through casual discussion spread out over multiple days Deborah Fox and myself were able to formulate a treatment plan to facilitate playback. The steps we identified included designing a process and then testing the process on a donor disc, testing the coating on the paper surface of the actual discs to confirm that the coating was not water soluble, splitting the already severely separated paper layers, flattening the warped grooved disc side, affixing the grooved side to a support in a reversible manner, playing the disc back, then removing the grooved disc side from the support and preparing them for long term physical preservation in an appropriate storage environment.

No part of this process has been documented or carried out before on a sound discs based on the research of Deb and myself. Due to this we decided that an article might be appropriate to share this process with the larger sound recording preservation community. It was brought to our attention that the Society of American Archivist Recorded Sound Round Table newsletter might be an appropriate channel. The article was just published and captures a more thorough discussion of the process.  The process and article represent the fruits of physical proximity in forging cooperation inter-departmentally. The success of this assignment was built on previous conversations between Deb and myself on topics ranging from special issues in recorded sound disc cleaning to lacquer disc label treatment.   

For more on the process read the Society of American Archivists Recorded Sound Roundtable article here:

To listen to the discs contact the Stanford University Library Archive of Recorded Sound:


The warped disc pre-treatment

Image of warped paper based Hollywood Record  

The warped disc prepared for digitization

Paper base disc prepared for transfer