Have you ever cleared out a drawer or cupboard and found a mysterious old audio cassette tape at the back of it, complete with faded inlay card, and wondered what to do with it? Given you haven’t had a tape player for many years the answer is it will most likely end up in the bin. Granted, if you are under 25 you probably haven’t seen an audio tape first hand, however if you extend this to other, once common formats, such as wax cylinders, vinyl records, DAT tapes, VHS tapes, and floppy discs you can quickly appreciate this is going to be a major problem for anyone with a sizable collection of audio and video material. Now consider a collection of over 6.5 million recordings of speech, music, wildlife and the environment, from the 1880s to the present day, and you have a really sizable issue! This is exactly the situation the British Library face with the digitisation and preservation of the nation’s Sound Archive, and they have summed this problem up in their Save our Sound (SoS) programme. Along with the disappearance of the means to play the items, add to this the pressing urgency caused by physical degradation of the items, you now have a big problem with limited time to solve it.
As part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, the British Library tasked Armadillo Systems with thinking of a solution for speeding up the cataloging of the digitisation process their sound engineers used to preserve individual items. The answer we devised was a web based, backend tool, developed in Microsoft ASP.NET MVC, which produces SIPs (Submission Information Packages) ready for ingest by the British Library’s Digital Library System (DLS), as part of their Open Archival Information System (OAIS) model. OAIS has become the standard model for digital preservation systems at many institutions and organizations, and the British Library are one of the major institutions which have stated OAIS compliance as a fundamental design requirement for their digital preservation and repository development efforts.
Despite being very technically challenging the SIP Tool has proved an amazing success, allowing the SoS digitsation team to produce and ingest SIPs at a rate even they couldn’t have imagined. With potential plans to update the SIP Tool to support video and born digital items (such as modern radio broadcasts) this is a project which will be ongoing for several years to come.