Sarah Cain, Brandon Welch, Annie Oelschlager, Drew VandeCreek
February 10, 2021
Recent work discussing the digitization and preservation of magnetic tape materials has maintained that it should be left to expert practitioners and that the resulting digital materials should be stored in digital repositories. This article suggests that librarians and archivists lacking extensive technical skills or access to expertise can digitize these materials themselves. It provides a detailed account, including challenges faced, of how a team of practitioners without prior training or experience digitized historical audio recordings on cassette and open reel tape at Northern Illinois University Libraries. The discussion reviews the assembly of equipment and software that the team used for digitization work, discussing each element’s significance and how they came together as a functioning workflow. The authors also emphasize the fact that while the digitization of fragile and/or degraded magnetic tape materials may contribute to the preservation of their contents, this action also creates a new set of materials with their own preservation needs. Realizing that many practitioners serving medium-sized and smaller institutions lacking large financial resources may not have access to a full-fledged digital repository, they suggest the use of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Levels of Digital Preservation rubric as a means by which practitioners may incrementally increase the probability that digital materials made from magnetic tapes will remain accessible.