A Personal Audio Encoding Project

I've recently embarked on a personal digital archives project involving digital audio. I've recently embarked on a personal digital archives project involving digital audio. This is one of a couple of projects I have in mind to help me explore the intricacies of managing digital objects with an eye on experimenting and understanding the challenges the individuals and small groups face when managing digital objects.

I will be encoding my CDs, records, and cassette tapes to a lossless digital format over the next few months. The choice of music as the corpus of study serves two goals: it provides a collection of objects that is not trivial in number or file size, and the emphasis of description is on the object level, thus reducing the emphasis on content search and granular description that are so prevalent in textual objects. Furthermore, my collection is not insignificant in size and contains a number of rare and unique items, so there is a preservation imperative. As for the legalities, any RIAA members out there can take a look at what I have to say about the subject and review portions of Title 17 of the US Code, particularly Section 107.

At this point in the project, I have elected to encode the works into a lossless, open source digital file format called FLAC. Fellow archivists need no explanation for the reasoning behind lossless and open source, but others may need to know that this choice of format ensures that nothing is effectively lost from the content value of the original objects (the music), and that by using an open source format, I can ensure that the documentation about how to decode the objects will be preserved along with the objects themselves.

The size of the encoded collection will likely reach or exceed 300 GB, which is not large at all compared to that which may be encountered in many organizational repositories, and indeed, many personal ones. However, the size is consistent with the amount of storage that an individual could require for his or her needs. I am not seeking to push the boundaries of digital storage just yet, although I recognize the need.

What I hope to achieve, besides having a backup of a large personal investment in music, is a full understanding of what tools are already available to assist with encoding and describing digital music objects, what tools may still be needed to facilitate self-archiving, and what potential problems could occur when one self-archives. These findings will inform my greater goal of developing a public infrastructure for digital preservation. I will post my observations as I encounter them.