Internet Archive digitizes rarities and more than 250 thousand discs 78 rpm | Culture

The Internet Archive – a site that houses a never-ending free and also non-profit library with millions of books, films, software and websites – has been working since 2016 to digitize thousands of 78rpm discs, some of which were made in the early 1900s. The project, in partnership with George Blood LP, is digitizing more than 250 thousand of them and was detailed in a curious video on Twitter last Sunday (25).

Great 78 Project (Image: Press Release / George Blood LP)

First of all…

What is a 78 rpm disc?

The discs produced in the late 1890s until the late 1950s, ran at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). Also known as shellac, they could vary in size – from 25 to 30 centimeters in diameter, with three to five minutes of recording per side. They were commonly sold without inserts, with simple envelope cover and strip information only on the label pasted in the center of the plates.

Great 78 Project

That said, the Internet Archive and George Blood LP guys are having the famous “big job”. The Great 78 Project is a collaborative project for the preservation, research and discovery of records at 78 rpm. From 1898 to the end of 1950, about three million sides (recordings averaging three minutes) were made in the format. Although commercially viable recordings have been restored and remastered on LPs (vinyl) or CDs, there is still historical value in the rare records at 78 rpm recordings.

How to scan 78 rpm discs

Each disc is cleaned in a washing machine that works by spraying distilled water and using a small vacuum arm to suck out the water, along with all the dirt that has accumulated in the disc grooves over the years – some of them over 100 years old .

The discs are then photographed and the images are analyzed to extract as much information from the internal labels and add them to the database manually. While most of the records are from Columbia, RCA Victor and Capitol, the digitization team also found 1,700 other labels, duly registered.

The 78 rpm discs, as they do not have standardized sizes and grooves, are played on a special record player with four arms and their respective needles. Each version captured by each needle of this turntable is available for download separately, with the file name showing “3.3_CT” or another corresponding to the needle that was used.

The four arms operating simultaneously on a century-old disk may worry the most careful, but most of these 78rpm are made of very hard shellac, which makes them prone to breaking if handled sloppily, but they are also tough enough for grooves are not damaged. Newer record players also exert less force on the disc than older players.

Technics turntable with 4 arms (Image: Press Release / George Blood LP)

Technics turntable with 4 arms (Image: Press Release / George Blood LP)

Browsing the entire collection can be daunting, it’s a lot! But you can restrict your browsing by year, genre and artist or even country, like the Brazil (with z).

If you prefer to be surprised by an hourly “old news”, the @ great78project account on Twitter posts a new record of the collection every 60 minutes.

Some of the 78rpm were already picture disc – discs covered by an image printed on the entire surface. You can check out some of them by filtering through this option on the website.

Check out the video also on YouTube from the Internet Archive:

“Digitization will make this rarer music accessible to researchers in a format where it can be manipulated and studied without damaging the physical disk.

There is no way to predict whether the digital versions of these 78 rpm will last longer than the physical media, so we are preserving both to ensure the survival of the materials for future generations ”, explains the team behind the project.

With information: great78.archive.org and The Verge

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