Thursday, September 6, 2007

Old Media in New Formats

I spent this morning in a downtown studio, watching a 20-something sound engineer named Matt create a DVD version of an old audio recording of a tribal chief from a northern California rancheria. The very first chairman of my department conducted this interview back in the early 1950s (when the tribal chief was 55 years old) using reel-to-reel technology. It has been stored away for 58 years in the Department's film and video archives and I found it ONLY because an employee of the tribe learned from a county librarian (several counties away) that this interview had taken place and contacted us about obtaining a copy for the tribe's cultural committee. (How this libarian knew about the interview is beyond me--someone must have cited it back in the 60s in a thesis or dissertation. Librarians and archivists never cease to amaze me.) It was doubly-sweet for me to sit and listen to the voices on the tape. I certainly know who the tribal chief was, and loved hearing him speak his native language and talk about his life, but it was also moving for me to hear the voice of our department's first chair, who passed away not too long after this original recording was made. He has been the focus of some of my own research and writing for nearly six years. Fortunately, the sound quality and condition of the tape was excellent. The tribe generously funded the digitization, and in exchange for making the tape available, provided the department and university with a DVD and CD. I think I am going to transfer the original tape (along with a CD version) to the University Archives and Special Collections, to be catalogued with the few personal papers we have of the founding Chair. I also got to hear all about the tribe's plans for a new cultural center. And all about Matt's thesis project. And all about what the tribal chief's uncle (the earlier chief) told him were the characteristics of a good leader. Such a neat experience and day. But that's all over now, and I've got an 8 a.m. Friday morning class. Blech.

1 comment:

participant-observer said...

More and more I am finding that classes tend to get in the way of all the joys of scholarship.