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Deposit Guide

I. Introduction

Field recordings form the core of the research collections at the Archives of Traditional Music, and over the years, the Archives has depended on field recordists and collectors to enrich its holdings of these unique materials.  As a part of this cooperative effort, the Archives offers collectors high-quality working copies in exchange for original field recordings, ensuring preservation in a carefully controlled environment.  This collaboration also extends to finding ways of making the recordings as accessible as possible to students, faculty, and researchers.

Since documentation is the key to the usefulness of any field collections, the following suggestions are designed for those interested in depositing their materials at the Archives.

II. Procedure for Depositing Field Collections

A.  Contacting the Archives

1. The optimal time to contact the Archives might be when you are designing your field research.  The Archives can offer assistance in developing strategies to organize field materials.  This is particularly useful when you are ready to deposit your collection.

2. If you are thinking about depositing your collection at the Archives, send a letter of inquiry to the director, describing the size, content, and scope of your materials, and including sample index pages or documentation.

B. Organizing Your Materials

1.  It is helpful to establish a working relationship with the Archives staff when you are beginning to organize your materials for deposit.  We can send you forms to help arrange your recordings and documentation, supply references for standardization of terminology, and offer advice about recording problems.

2. The Collector’s Tape Index Sheet has been developed to help the Archive integrate field collections into our cataloging system, supplying a general framework for information about both the content and physical format of the recording.

a. A separate sheet should be completed for each tape.  Be sure to include the reference number you used to identify your tape in the field.

b.  The contents description should provide basic information about the circumstances of the recording, including exact date, location, culture group, languages used, names of performers, and genres.  For the latter, it might be helpful to include the original language term, exact translation, and a category or gloss.

c. The description should include an indication of the sequence of events recorded on the tape, for example:

1. Announcement
2. Speech about_______
3. First dance song “[Title or first line]”

List songs titles or first lines, and if performers change throughout the tape, indicate those changes.  Describe any ensemble, including the number and kind of musical instruments, number and gender of singers. Note interruptions, special conditions [loud thunderclap, heavy downpour, chickens clucking, dancers moving in and out of microphone range], recording problems [batteries running low], broken sequences.

3. We welcome additional documentation, such as copies of texts and translations, slides, and photographs.  Videotapes and film might supplement an audio tape collection or constitute a separate field collection.  You may wish to correlate these with the index sheets and make sure your reference numbers are prominently indicated on all of the material you deposit with us.

4. Please indicate any cultural restrictions on the public reproduction of the recorded materials, such as “Should not be played for the community without first consulting elders.”

C. Shipping

1. Once you have organized the collection, please notify the Archives before you plan to ship your recordings to us.  We can offer advice about packing your collection.

2. It is best to send collections through a special carrier, such as UPS, or specially insured through the post office.

3. Label both the inside and outside of your package clearly and include a packing slip.

D. The Archives and the Collector

1. When we receive a collection and its documentation, we make a preliminary list of the materials shipped to us, which we will return to you along with a contract for deposit.  The signed contract represents the beginning of an on-going relationship which protects not only the depositor’s rights but the rights of the performers as well.

2. The collaborative relationship with the Archives does not stop once a collection has been deposited.  Periodically, a user wishing copies of a restricted collection for scholarly or educational purposes may contact a depositor for permission.  This enables a collector to protect the interests of those represented in the collection.

3. Collector’s Copies

4. In general, an agreement to deposit original field recordings in the Archives entitles the collector to a full single set of high-quality working copies.  Additional copies may be ordered at a 20% discount.

5. An Archive depositor may also purchase copies of other field recordings in our holdings at a 20% discount.

E. Older Field Collections

1. Older field collections sometimes present special problems for both the collector and the Archives.  Even under the best storage conditions, early recording media, such as cylinders and acetate discs, and some early tape formulations are subject to rapid deterioration and decay.  As you prepare an older collection for deposit, please inspect tapes and their containers for signs of damage and note these on your packing list.  The following are some of the indications of damage.

  • Frayed edges
  • Brittle tape
  • Flaking or separation from backing
  • Splices
  • Mold or mildew on either tapes or boxes
  • Insect or rodent damage
  • Rust on metal containers

2. In cases of extreme damage, the Archives may be unable to accept your collection.

III. Materials for deposit

In addition to audio, video and film recordings, the Archives is interested in related:

    1. Photographs, slides, negatives, and transparencies
    2. Manuscripts, field notes, diaries, and transcriptions
    3. Publications relevant to the collection