Frequently Asked Questions

Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) is a nonprofit community-based archive that creates preservation space, both online and offline, that is both accessible, reliable, and transparent. To these ends we have developed the below F.A.Q.

DSC is concerned with preserving a wide range of artifacts that include the following:

Analog tapes from cassettes to reel-to-reel original multi-tracks and master tapes

Oral history transcriptions and recordings

Vinyl recordings from 78’s and LPs to acetates and original radio transcription discs

Paper ephemera – Musical scores, radio station archives, sheet music, event posters and interview transcriptions

Landmarks – The physical locations where the Detroit sound was created are equally important as the product they generate

How does DSC select materials to preserve?

The focus of DSC is music made in Detroit from classical and jazz to hip hop and techno. This means that we work with many different formats, both analog and digital. The most important audio formats to preserve are those in danger of disappearing entirely due to poor storage and degradation. We prioritize materials that may not have much time left.

How does DSC preserve its artifacts?

DSC artifacts are cataloged and maintained in secure, climate controlled facilities in Detroit, which isolate recordings from external magnetic or radio interference. Currently, our primary preservation strategy is digitization of analog materials.

How does DSC maintain digital artifacts?

DSC converts and maintains digital files of artifacts in secure locations along with their physical counterparts according to specific standards. Editors can create additional copies maintained for public access. Curators audit, maintain, and insure the integrity of these files and physical items over time.

How are physical assets preserved?

Physical assets need to be stored in acid-free, inert containers in line with Library of Congress standards. Containers will be placed in storage vaults isolated from external magnetic or radio interference.

How do you digitize analog materials? 

It is important that transfers made from format to format be carried out without changes or “improvements” such as de-noising, etc. These background sounds are considered part of the original artifact and will remain part of any duplication of the recording. It is archival best practice that the full dynamic range and frequency response of the original signal is transferred. This includes not using “compression” or formats which employ data reduction since they lose primary information. The format of the file is a 24/96K .wav file, which is the recognized archival and professional standard.

DSC also is interested in digitizing documents and photographs. To do this we require using a .TIFF format with 600 dpi bitonal or 300 dpi 8- bit grayscale  minimum scan resolution. The scan ratio must be 1:1 with no loss of information to be consider archival quality. However if the scan is still not legible or does not fully represent the record then a higher dpi or bit number must be used. The most minor writing must be legible on the digital scan if it is legible on the physical object.

As with all digitized records they must be kept current with changing technology and format to ensure digital preservation.

What professional standards does the DSC follow?

Standards are the best practices, the highest level of ethical and acceptable action, for preserving and capturing historic AV material. The DSC has four organizations from which we will draw our best practices: The Oral History in the Digital Age Matrix Standard; The Grammy Foundation Basic Methodology for Preservation, Conversion, and Archiving Recorded Media; the Federal Agencies Digital Archiving Guidelines; and The National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Many of these organizations reference the standards set forth by the International Association of Sound and Visual Archives.

For further reading about standards:

Oral History in the Digital Age – Michigan State University

The Library of Congress Packard  Campus for Audio-Video Preservation

Federal Agencies Digital Archiving Guidelines

National Recording Preservation Board

Grammy Foundation Standards

International Association of Sound and Visual Archives 

How can I store and preserve my own collection?

The number one thing anyone can do is to protect tapes, vinyl records, and any other recording equipment from high temperatures and high humidity. The colder and drier the better for storing analog material long term. Most people don’t realize that magnetic tape may only have a lifespan of ten years if cared for improperly. The accepted ideal conditions for magnetic tape and vinyl records are a relative humidity or RH of 35%-40% and temperatures lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid contamination by dirt, dust, cigarette smoke, fingerprints, and other pollutants. When tapes and records are not in use, store them upright rather than laying them flat.

How do I give my collection to DSC?

If you are interested in donating materials to DSC, we would love to talk to you! Please email us at Tell us what is in your collection and what condition it is in so we can see if it fits in with our Collection Policy. We will appraise all gifts on a case-by-case basis.

Once an artifact is preserved, how is it made publicly accessible ?

DSC offers access to electronic video, audio, and text transcriptions of our artifacts via DSC website. Original physical artifacts are made available to researchers only by appointment.

What searchable relative information is stored with each object?

Electronic artifacts that DSC publishes online benefit from searchable tags or metadata. Metadata is identifying information about an artifact. Types of metadata that we capture are artist’s names, dates of recordings, and analog carrier type. Metadata allows archivists and librarians to catalogue information and provide easy identification and access to users in the form of tags. These tags allow visitors to our online archive the ability to search with criteria that interests them. Artist name, location, date of capture, and asset type are all examples of searchable criteria.

May I use information, photos, or audio tracks from your website? 

Yes, except where otherwise noted, much of our content falls under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Broadly speaking, as long as you attribute the content back to Detroit Sound Conservancy and do not use commercially, you may use most anything on our website for your own personal use.

May I license materials for commercial use?

Potentially! Please contact us at info AT to discuss your proposed licensing opportunity.

Updated 17 September 2020

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