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"You are the music while the music lasts." ~ T.S. Eliot
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One of the most effective ways for you to help us preserve sound recordings is by preserving your own collection!

Below are some very simple and effective ways to extend the life of your recordings. They generally fall into the categories of storing, handling, cleaning, playing and transferring your recordings.


Storing

When storing your records, the surrounding environment plays a large part in their preservation, or conversely, their degradation. Storing each of the recordings in a polyethylene sleeve will help protect against the following environmental conditions.

Position

Position is one of the most critical considerations when storing your records. It is well worth the investment to store your records vertically on shelves or in cabinets. If you cannot afford to invest in shelves, then storing them vertically in boxes is better than nothing at all. The excessive pressure of storing the records flat will eventually cause damage to the records and jackets.

Temperature

The Record Collectors Guild recommends a temperature of between 65°-70° Farenheit or 21° Celcius for the storage environment. Excessively hot temperatures can cause warping in a record. It is also recommended to avoid quick temperature changes. Another important consideration is the storage location with respect to sunlight, heaters, vents, or other sources of heat in the room. Even if the ambient room temperature is kept constant, direct sunlight entering through blinds or an open window and shining directly onto your records can raise the temperature of the records themselves.

Humidity

Avoid high humidity when storing your recorings. Mold is a contagious destroyer of recordings and their packaging. Try to avoid storing your records in a garage, basement or attic that is not dry and well ventilated.

Dirt and Dust

Storing your records in a polyethylene sleeve is wonderful protection against dirt and dust. Keep the area around your records clean as well. After you have slipped the record itself into its inner sleeve, slip the inner sleeve into the jacket so that the opening of the inner sleeve makes contact with one of the closed sides of the jacket. This will help create a seal so dust cannot enter into the inner sleeve.

Inner Sleeves

Paper inner sleeves have two possible problems to watch out for. The paper can carry chemicals that will slowly react with the record itslef. The paper can also scratch the record each time the record is pulled out of the sleeve and replaced back in the sleeve. The Record Collectors Guild recommends the paper inner sleeves be replaced by mylar, polyethelene or rice paper inner sleeves.

Shrink Wrap

The original shrink wrap applied by the manufacturer will likely continue to shrink over time, causing the jacket to warp. It is recommended to replace the original shrink wrap with a polyethylene sleeve.


Handling

The natural oils from your hands along with any dirt present can leave residues on the playing surface of the record. Therefore, dirt and oils should be washed from your hands before you handle a record. When you handle the record, minimize the time you touch the playing surface by handling the record by the edges or labeled surfaces.


Cleaning

When cleaning your records, you can clean them by hand or with a machine. There are several machines on the market for cleaning records. Make sure to read the instructions and make sure the cleaning solution will not damage your recordings. The following tips are for manual cleaning.

Vinyl

For non-shellac recordings, which are comprised of almost all long-playing records, extended-play recordings, and 45 RPM singles, the use of water or a water-based cleaning solution with a maximum of 20% isoproyl alcohol content is recommended. Distilled water is recommended over tap water.

Place the recording on a surface that will not scratch the underside. Dampen a soft, clean cloth with the water or cleaning solution and wipe the record in a circular motion, following the direction of the grooves.

Shellac

For shellac recordings, which are comprised mostly of 78 RPM recordings, the use of any type of alcohol-based cleaning solution is not recommended. The alcohol can dissolve the shellac material. Therefore it is best to start with water and then move on to a water-based cleaning solution if absolutely necessary.

Place the recording on a surface that will not scratch the underside. Dampen a soft, clean cloth with the water or cleaning solution and wipe the record in a circular motion, following the direction of the grooves.


Playing

The Needle

The needle on your player can do damage to the grooves of your record if it is not in good shape. Needles "fit" inside of the grooves at certain angles. If the tip of the needle is damaged or worn, the needle will no longer "fit" nicely into the grooves, but will begin to wear away at the edges of the groove.

Depending on the era and brand of your player, your needle will be made of differing materials. Needles are normally rated for a maximum number of plays. Check to see what material your needle is made of and how often it should be replaced. There are websites that can sell you a new needle when you need one. Also, local electronics stores can likely order a new needle for you.

Stacking

Some record players came equipped with stacking spindles. These allowed the user to stack records above the turntable surface. When the player finished a side, it would drop the next record from the spindle and continue playing. This is why some multi-disc sets are numbered with Sides 1 and 8, Sides 2 and 7, Sides 3 and 6, and Sides 4 and 5 on reverse sides of the same disc. The user could listen to all four of the first sides in a row, flip the stack, and then listen to the last four sides.

It is now not recommended to continue this practice. The friction between the playing surfaces of two stacked records causes damage to the grooves.


Transferring

Transferring your analog records into the digital domain is an extra step you can take to preserve the recordings stored on them. The technology available for transferring records becomes cheaper and more user-friendly each year. There are turntables available for purchase which will transfer your records to CDs while you listen to them. There are USB turntables on the market that connect directly to your computer, giving you the opportunity to capture the recordings in digital file format on your computer.

If you have an older turntable, there are components you can purchase to connect your turntable and amplifier to your computer. You will need an audio editing program that will capture the audio signal from the amplifier. Once the audio signal is captured, you can then save the signal as a digital file.

© 2009 - 2017 by the Audio Preservation Fund