Philosophies of Preservation: Making the Obsolete Last As Long As Possible


All George Blood Audio LP project proposals contain a “Philosophy of Preservation,” and it reads, “The scope of the project is to create digital surrogates that match the original sources as they currently exist. The project does not include enhancement or restoration, such as speed and level correction, or re-equalization.” As a client of George Blood LP, you may be wondering how this philosophy guides the process. Why wouldn’t we want to make the contents of an obsolete form of media look or sound “better” as the language would suggest?

Different forms of media possess different qualities; for example, some folks might remark that vinyl records sound “warm” compared to other methods of sound recording or how the graininess of film adds to its aesthetic value. In digitizing these formats, George Blood LP does not seek to “improve” upon them. Rather, the act of preservation gives the data on these media a much longer shelf-life compared to its obsolete format. Where a disk or a tape may decay or gather dust, digitized files can potentially last forever.

Complete restoration of files would not only be impossible, it also undermines the mission of preservation. Enhancement of files is possible, but that is not the purpose of preservation. If preservation is the act of maintaining and marking a moment in time, then performing any kind of digital restoration would damage the integrity of that piece of archival work. Creating digital surrogates of obsolete media allows the object to live on with all of its quirks through the digital age.

Consider how this kind of preservation functions in works of public artwork like Nashville’s Parthenon. For Nashville’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, the city wanted to capture the spirit of Nashville’s nickname: “The Athens of the South.” The Nashville Parthenon became a beloved monument in the city, but because it had been built out of plaster, wood, and brick, it began to fall apart. And so the city set out to build a more permanent Parthenon out of concrete. They did not change the design or size of it, they just wanted to make the statue last ostensibly forever.

The Parthenon proudly stands in Nashville to this day, and aside from keeping it clean and tidy, no major changes have been made to it. Today, people come to the same Parthenon in order to enjoy artwork or theater or even just to marvel at its size, the same way others did this over 100 years ago. So it is with George Blood LP: when we create digital surrogates, we are marking a specific moment in time and attempting to make it possible for someone 100 years from now to share the same experience as faithfully as possible.