The Albert Gore Research Center has recently had the opportunity to take another step in the preservation of documentation of the past, this time in the form of rare film footage. Some of our audio-visual material includes 2” Quadruplex tapes of the type heavily used from the mid-1950s-1980s for professional video recording. The format is obsolete to the point where it is difficult to find machinery that can play the tapes. They must be converted to a digital format that can be played with modern equipment to be accessible.
Even rarer than the machinery needed to play these tapes are people with the skills to deal with the conservation issues that come with material that has been stored for years, often in some forgotten closet or storage facility. Mold, water damage, physical damage to tape or reels, and any manner of other damage that may have been done over the years, all require special skills if the recordings are to be saved.
The Albert Gore Research Center here at MTSU has undertaken a project to conserve the original “Quad” tapes in the collection, and to both preserve their content and make it accessible by transferring it to a high-resolution, stable digital format, and then making compressed files that will be easier to view. Larry Odham, proprietor of Quad Tape Transfer in East Tennessee has taken on the task for us. And none too soon. Some of the tapes had been damaged by water and mold prior to coming to us. Mr. Odham was able to clean the tapes and return them to a playable condition, although he felt that they had been very close to having suffered permanent damage.
The video we receive at the end of the process will be stored in several locations and on several media for added security. Such files are monitored to be sure they are undamaged, and the Albert Gore Research Center acknowledges the need to periodically see if changes in technology require plans to migrate to new formats or storage media. At least some of the dangers to the files, such as mold, will have been taken care of.
For more on Quad tape Transfer,
see their Facebook page: