Plan Seeks to Preserve Historic Recordings; Researchers Say More Than Half of the Oldest Collections Have Already Been Lost

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WASHINGTON The Library of Congress unveiled an extensive plan Wednesday to help libraries and archives nationwide preserve recorded sound to guard against losing historic recordings as has happened with those by George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

About 14,000 public and private institutions hold sound recordings, according to one survey. The plan carries 32 recommendations as a blueprint to coordinate their efforts and enlist commercial recording studios and private copyright holders in preservation efforts. Congress called for a plan in a 2000 law on preserving audio recordings.

The Library of Congress already saves some key historic recordings each year, but researchers say many others are being lost due to a lack of storage capacity, changing technology, inadequate funding and disparate copyright laws.

As a nation, we have good reason to be proud of our record of creativity in the sound-recording arts and sciences, said Librarian of Congress James Billington in announcing the effort. However, our collective energy in creating and consuming sound recordings has not been matched by an equal level of interest in preserving them for posterity.

Researchers say more than half of the oldest recordings have already been lost, including some by Gershwin, Sinatra and Garland. …