Linguistic and ethnographic sound recordings from early twentieth-century California: Optical scanning, digitization, and access

Lecture | March 15 | 5-7 p.m. | 356 Barrows Hall

 Andrew Garrett, UC Berkeley

 Arts & Humanities, Letters & Science Division of

UC Berkeley is the repository of an American cultural treasure in over 2,500 early twentieth-century wax cylinder recordings of Native American speech and song. Some are the only known recordings of a language; many are the only known recordings of particular songs or stories; all are invaluable for scholarly research and the broader purposes of cultural and linguistic revitalization. Previous work using mechanical playback methods to transfer the recordings to modern sound media and digitize the result yielded low-quality sound files. A collaborative project that uses new technology (developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) to produce optical scans of all wax cylinders in the university's collection, from which improved audio transfers are being created. At Berkeley the collaboration involves the Department of Linguistics, the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and the University Library; the work is funded by NEH, NSF, and campus sources such as Digital Humanities at Berkeley. I'll talk about this project and some uses that are being made of the newly accessible audio.