THE INTERNET ARCHIVE, which has been quietly caching web pages for the past two decades, also has a few more strings to its bow.
Previously, we've told you about classic video games now playable in-browser as a result of archiving by the team. But the latest release goes back a little further.
The Archive has released 25,000 (count 'em!) digital versions of 78RPM records that were otherwise virtually unplayable and certainly otherwise unavailable.
Working with the Archive of Contemporary Music and preservation specialists George Blood LP, alongside a group of individual volunteers, the discs have been carefully digitised from the originals.
The most popular material for 78s (described by eighties magazine Smash Hits as 'records that break when you tread on them') was shellac - beetle resin. As a result, they're extremely brittle, and many are now so fragile that simply removing them from the sleeve can break them.
The project has over 200,000 pieces of 78RPM to go through, but the first 25,000 are there.
It's thought, as well as preserving them for future generations, the discs, with their hiss and scratch, will provide interesting research opportunities for researchers looking into the history of recording, but also the nature of sound itself.
The Internet Archive explains: "We aim to bring to light the decisions by music collectors over the decades and a digital reference collection of underrepresented artists and genres. The digitisation will make this less commonly available music accessible to researchers in a format where it can be manipulated and studied without harming the physical artefacts.
"We have preserved the often very prominent surface noise and imperfections and included files generated by different sizes and shapes of stylus to facilitate different kinds of analysis."
The 'Great 78' Project runs alongside but separately to the National Jukebox managed by the Library of Congress.
The team are keen to emphasise that it can't have too many 78s, so if you have some to offer, they'll gladly take them and preserve them for future generations - including safely storing the original disc.
The news comes a day after the Internet Archive was blocked by ISPs in India, on the orders of the government, who is yet to explain why. µ
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