Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

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Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cool story on NPR

Well, there's usually a lot of cool stories on NPR. Driving to the gym after work, they had a feature about old, "lost" recordings and a company called Archeophone Records. I recently read a book whose title escapes me (I think it lent it and the accompanying CD) to Eric, but it was written by a guy who spent a lot of time tracking down old blues 78 rpm records and the artists who recorded them. Revenant Records has released some similar albums. But I did like that the company called itself Archeophone, because it's very evocative of the symbolic "digging" for lost treasures that also provide glimpses into the past and culture.
When I was listening to the show, I remembered that my great-grandma Lona (who we called Grandma B) had an old stereo system in her house when we were kids, and how the record slots were designed for (and actually held) old 78s. Some of these were the thick, brittle old "wax" records, rather than the more modern vinyl equivalents. I can't remember any of the recordings, although I suspect it was inspirational music. I doubt it was the country or black gospel religious music, which would have been awesome. I want to say that after she died and some cousins moved into the house, that stereo was put into a barn. Next time I'm at the farm in Ohio, I'm going to have to look for that.
Later this evening, on Antiques Roadshow, one of the people brought in an old Edison home phonograph inside a large wooden cabinet, with 3 drawers of old cylinders. After telling about the history of the player and the cabinets, they ended the segment by actually showing that the player still worked! Unfortunately, they didn't spend any time talking about the cylinders, how rare they are, how valuable some of those might be, or any examples of what was in the collection. I guess they have time limitations, but while an Edison home phonograph is really rare (4-5k appraisal), it's not impossible that one or more of those cylinders may be the only existing copy of that particular recording, which is invaluable! Which brings us back to Archeophone, because not only are they preserving and reissuing these lost songs, but they're doing it for the cultural and innate worth of the music and history, not for the dollar signs, like most archaeology.

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Anonymous groundhogging said...

Have you found any fragments of 78s on jobs? I was doing contract work for the last few years and found a couple. I'm back in grad school now and working on a proposal for extracting audio data from pieces of records found on early 20th century sites. It would be a great tool for studying places like company towns, POW camps, African American homesteads, etc. The digital scanning (scanning electron microscope or even flatbed, 2D scanner) is easy. Unfortunately, the restoration techniques in use at library of congress etc. are based on records with at least an intact diameter... I agree on Archaeophone- I have a working Edison player as well as several spring wound 78rpm machines- they are fun- nice to hear the dead live again- Ollie

4:08 PM  

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