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Monday, December 9, 2013

What's Cookin' in the Rinzler Archives?: Digitization Update

Cook-05-06-v, from Cook Labs records
 The last two years has seen the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections' digitization program grow from an activity mainly based on small requests made by researchers to a core function of our work. Our first major project, funded by a Save America's Treasures grant from the National Park Service, was to digitize the Moses and Frances Asch Collection. We quickly realized that our goal of scanning 196 cubic feet of materials over the course of the project was quite unrealistic. In addition to it being our first project (there was a lot to learn), staffing and equipment constraints limited us considerably. However, in spite of these limitations, I am quite proud of our first few years of digitization (we now have over 19,853 images of Asch Collection materials in the Smithsonian's Digital Asset Management System (DAMS), with many more waiting on our servers for quality control!).

The  Moses and Frances Asch Collection project will continue with the assistance of the talented interns in the archives. After over two years of work, we are happy enough with our workflows (influenced by many lessons learned) to make them suitable for independent intern work. While we will continue ushering the Asch project along the road to completion (whatever we eventually decide that means!), we have turned our attention to other important collections in our stacks, thanks to a grant from the Smithsonian's Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Cook-15-02b-p001, from from Cook Labs records
We digitized the 1.25 cubic feet of paper materials that are a part of the Paredon Records audiorecordings in October-November, and we are now in the midst of digitizing the papers of the Cook Labs records, about 5 cubic feet in total. All digital images get ingested into the DAMS, which keeps them secure but also makes it possible for them to be easily served to a future website where a selection of the images will be available to researchers--a goal that isn't in the cards for us at the moment, but the images will be ready when we are!

I am especially excited to be working with Emory Cook right now--he is by far the most entertainingly quirky character in our stacks, as evidenced by my past posts covering the more charming elements of the collection. Today, I thought I'd share some of my favorite recently digitized materials.The image at the top of this post features a typical Cook-ism: an information card has a space to write down your favorite sound.

Above, a typical issue of Cook's newsletter, The Audio Bucket. I actually guffawed rather loudly when I read the "BURLESQUE FEELS PINCH" headline.

Cook-13-01-p002-003, from from Cook Labs records
And finally, the interior of a promotional brochure for the Cook Road Recordings series. This paragraph sums up quite nicely Cook's recording philosophy:

"Many of them have been so unusual, so off-the-beat, that it would not be possible to put them into even our bizarre catalog, due to what might turn out to be--shall we say--a limited interest. Not everyone wants a record of a steam calliope. But some of this material stands newly revealed in the light of high fidelity as exciting program. Other subject matter is far from being high fidelity at all, but is just curious in its own right."

Look out for future updates on our progress with this great collection! Until then, what's your favorite sound?

Cecilia Peterson
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

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