Chemist at the Library of Congress
The Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress utilizes a broad array of analytical techniques to study items from our collections. This talk will highlight some of our work on a range of collection materials as well as detail a recent, detailed study regarding the analysis of early recorded sound carriers. The Library has a large collection of wax cylinders, the earliest commercialized recorded sound carrier, many of which contain ethnographic field recordings from as early as 1890. Unfortunately, these wax cylinders can present with significant condition issues including cracking when they are retrieved for digital transfer. To understand the cause of these issues and develop strategies to prevent further degradation, we are taking a multi-pronged approach to identify changes resulting from aging as well as guide the continued preservation of these materials. To this end, we are performing detailed chemical analyses of wax cylinders and fragments from our collection as well as recreating historical wax compositions as guided by both primary literature reports and chemical analyses.