Jack White, of The White Stripes and solo fame, has donated $200,000 of his own money to launch the National Recording Preservation Foundation.
The focus of the NRP Foundation is converting fragile physical recordings (ranging from Edison cylinders and lacquer discs to 8-tracks and CDs) into a digital format. The task sounds daunting, considering they’ll have to convert every sound-recording the Library of Congress has in it’s archives, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also complex legal issues concerning ownership and distribution, not to mention the diversity of the recording sources, and the physical condition of the sources themselves.
“Here we have a whole nation of cultural heritage in recorded sound and a lot of it is in precarious shape,” the Foundation’s Executive Director Gerald Seligman said. “Some was recorded on very fragile material – like old cylinders, acetates, and reel-to-reel tapes – and it’s turning into shards.”
Seligman went on to hint that some of these saved recordings will be available commercially sometime in the future, and it’s a safe bet that Jack White’s Third Man Records will handle the distribution. Third Man has already released archival blues records by Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton, and The Mississippi Sheiks.