John Raines - audio preservation
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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in zero.com. [00:00:05] My name is john rains. And I have had a career mainly in software development and database and corporate application design. But in a previous lifetime back in the 19, somewhere back there, I worked in radio, and a little bit of TV. So I have experienced with analog media, and also the conventions of that time. And so this niche that I've been kind of carving for myself with the society is really a perfect fit. Because I'm able to use the knowledge that I have analog media, combine it with the knowledge I have of digital processing, in order to preserve and convert this vast inventory of materials in the archive. [00:00:50] Can we just take a step back and just tell me a wee bit about the Historical Society, [00:00:55] the separate of the GL bt? Well, first, it was the G, then it was the GL, then it was the GL bt Historical Society was founded back, I believe, in the 80s. By Willie Walker, Willie Walker was a nurse who was caring for AIDS patients. And he was ending up with materials of patients. [00:01:23] And decided that we needed to save this history. Because these were important documents of this gay culture and San Francisco being one of the centers of gay liberation and then GLG to culture. After that, we thought it was very important to preserve this material. So he started having stacks and stacks in his living room. And eventually, with community support and the support of the city of San Francisco as well. [00:01:51] He and his successors, were able to develop it into a full blown archive, and now museum. And when did you first get involved? I got into involved in 2009, as a volunteer at an exhibit that was mounted at the corner of Castro on 18th Street, was really a small storefront and a fairly constrained exhibit. But I found it very compelling. And among the artifacts that were there was the blood soaked suit of Harvey Milk, that he was murdered him. And that was a very moving and impactful experience to see that. Certainly, that's true of the many visitors who were there, everyone commented on that. But I was it struck me that, yes, we have a history and yes, it's important to preserve and not only that, but communicate outward to people. [00:02:45] So who full size of keeping happy, looks sweet. [00:02:49] I don't know for sure. [00:02:54] Probably was in the care of Scott Smith, his lover. I imagine. There are tremendous number of artifacts of Harvey Milk's at the archive. When Scott Smith died. his estate, which included a lot of materials of Harvey's went in two different directions of most of the written materials, went to the formal collection at the San Francisco Public Library. And most of the the artifact, the 3ds kind of a bad way to put it, but you know what I mean, the [00:03:29] the clothes, the objects, yes, went to the Historical Society. And it's a fascinating collection, one can walk back into the archive and open a box and here is a pair of Harvey Milk's jeans. Here is regrettably, only half of the canvas Castro camera sign in another box [00:03:48] is a story that Levi's had an exhibit about a year ago. They're also a benefactor of the society. And they asked for a pair of Harvey Milk's jeans to show in their lobby. So we walked in and found three pair. And we you know, we checked them out, we check the size just to make sure they were plausible. Because sometimes the provenance of these artifacts is not entirely clear. There's often a lot of [00:04:16] a lot of scurry and disorganization at the time of someone's passing. And so some of these collections are not that well organized when they come in. [00:04:25] So when Harvey suit was exhibited, and you were a volunteer, what, what kind of comments from people coming through were there? [00:04:36] They almost always started with Wow. [00:04:40] because it brings the [00:04:43] tragedy of it's so close, literally close to your eyes to see, to see the clothes to see the blood stains to feel the impact of what happened. [00:04:58] It was also staged a little bit in the back in a fairly good theatrical fashion, and it was behind a scrim. So it was kind of a surprise as you turn the corner. Amongst other fairly light hearted and interesting artifacts, you would suddenly be confronted with this glass case with this crumbled brown suit. and wonder why there's a crumpled brown suit with darker brown stains on it in a case and then read the card and find out you know, what you're seeing. [00:05:29] So from volunteering in that exhibition, what was your next involvement with the site? [00:05:35] Well, we had a series of DVDs running on a on a [00:05:41] display a video display in the window that were quite disorganized. So what I did was I took them and I edited them down to smaller chunks, and put a little more branding put our name and then emphasized and so they had a little more of a context. [00:05:58] Because I felt it was important that people realize they weren't just seeing random home movies passing by. But this was part of an effort mounted by the Historical Society. [00:06:09] The audio visual holdings of the society can you describe what what they encompass? [00:06:15] they encompass quite a variety of media and time periods. Data and when we say media, I'm talking about moving images and audio, there's a lot of photography as well in the archive. But the moving images go back to the 40s. One of our most intriguing and, and unprocessed collections is of regular and super eight film by a fellow named Hal O'Neill. He was an enthusiastic amateur, extensively edited, made enter titles for his movies, and documented his life as a gay man beginning in the 40s. And there's a treasure trove and only a few reels have ever been transferred. But they uniformly gain a tremendous amount of attention whenever we show any of that stuff. So that's one that's probably the oldest that we have ranging up through I would say probably the 90s a woman named Karen Everett, who made a documentary on Marlon Riggs, the black poet, [00:07:18] spent quite a lot of time with him about a year before his death, and she donated all of her raw footage to the archive. So I think that's probably latest collection that I'm aware of that there are bits and pieces to do. There are some a very extensive collections of primarily audio tapes or videos and but there are also videos sprinkled among the personal collections of other of their grantor's. [00:07:42] And what about the audio side of things? What kind of audio collections do you have? [00:07:45] Well, we have a fairly sizable photograph. Or do you say gramophone, I forget which. [00:07:55] You know, there's the phonograph was the cylinder. Originally, the gramophone was the disk, so it's properly gramophone record. We have anyway those flat black things that people don't know about anymore, or they're becoming popular. We have a fairly good collection of a lot of that stuff is in wide release, but there are few rare titles, including some 70 eights from the 40s. I'm a fellow named Ray bourbon, who was a very can be very can be Commedia. We also have quite a lot of open rail tape. And the extensive Randy offered collection of radio masters [00:08:31] ranging to cassette tapes, as well. [00:08:37] Well, actually, it's a San Francisco Gay Men's chorus collection that had the largest range of technologies in their audio collection, which contained open real tape, compact cassettes, something called DT RS digital tape recording system, which was briefly popular in the 90s and [00:09:00] cold [00:09:02] it's the A dat, [00:09:05] at least this a debt. Nevertheless, to a debt and D trs are based on videotape media. [00:09:13] D trs was based on high eight video cassettes, and a debt was based on Super VHS cassettes, but they both took advantage of the helical recording system to record multi track digital sound. So getting those transferred was actually going to get into the technology. But that was a challenge to find machines to play. Oh, this variety of formats back on. And you should hear about the video but I know that stuff. No, no. There's there's also, you know, videotape with everything from one inch, which was an 80s was the professional format to a VHS Betamax debate a cam, which was a professional format to digital beta cam. And curiously enough, open real videotape, which is the very next substance from seven days. Open real estate. Well, we'll get into the state of the question, but open real tapes or take a lot of work. [00:10:11] Can you talk to me about the kind of collection policy with regards to the media items? Because I'm thinking, does the media item have to have some queer or gay focus in terms of you know, a gay person speaking or a gay topic, or as a donor? That's important? This is always the tough question, isn't it? What's important what to keep? Generally, I would say yes, there needs to be some kind of govt scope to the media, either. It is about [00:10:47] some govt topic. [00:10:52] If it's merely produced by a gay, lesbian, bisexual, a transgender person, that's really not enough to qualify it to keep it in our collection, unless that person unless it really informed something else. And that person is an important govt history, figure historical figure. Because we have collections of quote unquote, ordinary people as well, which is important to note too. But I have come across some tapes that have no govt oriented content on them, or they're commonly available. And other you know, if someone collects videotapes, we might record what was in their collection, we might want to know what was of interest to them. But we're not necessarily going to hang on to copies of tapes that are commonly available on Amazon these days, for example, unless, unless they were extremely rare, then we might hold on to one. There's a huge collection of pornography, you know, mostly on film, huge collections of fun pornography. And we don't know quite what to do with that because sex is definitely part of the govt realm. But [00:12:02] there are also archives that do collect erotica and focus on that. And I know that sometimes we do donate materials, send them to other places where they seem better suited. [00:12:14] You mentioned Randy Alfred, can you tell me about his collection? [00:12:17] Yeah, the Randy Alfred collection [00:12:20] is quite extensive. It encompasses 256 reels of tape, takes up about 23 bankers boxes of space, and is [00:12:35] wonderfully meticulously organized, which is why I made it my first project because I knew I wasn't going to have to battle any inherent disorganisation. He produced the show as a public affairs program. And at that time, there was a governmental regulation that broadcasters produce and document certain amount of set programming. So with each tape, but there was also documentation of exactly who the guests were. It was really a drink, archive his dream, everything is fully documented. [00:13:05] So what was the show? [00:13:07] It was called the gay life. And it began in the late 70s, probably around 1978, I want to say, and ran until 1984. And Randy was the host and producer from 1979 to 84. And in addition to those programs, his collection also includes a few other tapes from the radio station, including [00:13:30] an unaired interview with Harvey Milk, and some very charming early programs called the gay liberation show, from 1973, which also aired on k said, [00:13:41] Is this the first kind of documented gay broadcasting in the San Francisco area? [00:13:46] I would say no, because predating Randy show was a program called fruit punch, which aired on Kp fk, the Pacifica public station in Berkeley. And fruit punch was a collapse a producers who had a weekly show on I believe, beginning earlier in the 70s. Then, about 78 is when the gay life really got ramped up. So I want to say they started much earlier probably around 7374. I don't know for sure, because I've only done a few of their tapes from another collection. That was only four boxes. [00:14:24] And when you say do tapes from whatever collection, what what are you doing what [00:14:30] were converting them to digital form. So playing them back, getting them to play back and turning them into digital files that can be preserved and copied almost indefinitely? As can most computer data? [00:14:42] So it's a preservation thing that you're doing? Is it also an access [00:14:47] things? Absolutely, absolutely. You know, the old days of hunting through a tape, forward, forward, guests, guests stop, play, no Forward, forward, guests that play no rewind, rewind, play, you know, it takes an amazing amount of time compared to these days, click, click, click, click, you find the spot you want in a digital file. So access is a huge part of it. Preservation that was well, because some of these tapes now are approaching 40 years of age. It's kind of amazing. Some of them are still in good shape. [00:15:20] So can you describe the shape of Randy's collection in terms of physically what [00:15:24] was already selection? in excellent condition? properly, all the tapes were boxed, stored up right down the hubs. [00:15:36] And just in stellar condition, I think I only had to heat treat three or four, maybe five reels out of 250 tapes. What is that? Well, you may or may not be familiar with the phenomenon of sticky shed, which is not nearly as exciting as it sounds, it entails the absorption of water by the tape over time, there was a formulation that was created in the late 70s. That was superior in many ways. But what they the engineers didn't know at that time was that over 10, 2030 years time, this new formula would absorb water from the environment and becomes so sticky on playback, that bog literally bug the machine down the table just stop. And when winds up with great black gobs of goo, that require gallons of alcohol and stronger solvents to get off the machine. But the real problem is getting the tape to play so you can preserve it. So the the cure, which was discovered by Ampex recently because they were the the culprits behind this new formula was to treat the tape with a low heat about 130 degrees or so Fahrenheit for anywhere from eight to 20 hours depending on the condition of the tape to make it playable, at least temporarily, so that it can be transferred. So you [00:17:04] put it into an oven or how do you do that? [00:17:06] Well, my favorite machine these are the trade secrets now is the Tesco food dehydrator, which makes excellent jerky and dried fruit By the way, I might say but makes it even better big tapes. It's just the right round shape for real and it has stacking trays, and it has a very even thermostat at a low temperature. And it doesn't cost a bajillion dollars, which helps what puts the tapes in the dehydrator, you turn it on for however long it takes tapes from the 70s now are taking a good 12 hours to become at least to become playable, sometimes more 1212 to 18 hours I would say. [00:17:48] And when they become playable doesn't mean that you only get one shot at capturing [00:17:52] No no, they generally will remain playable for Well, this is not well documented, because most of us play the tape and then for the damn thing back in the box and forget about it at bat. But it appears that they will remain playable for a matter of weeks, maybe depending on it's not a permanent fix the suck the water back up again. You know the biggest danger is trying to play a tape that has this problem and damaging the emotive the magnetic emotion because that is the recording and if you damage that you've destroyed the actual recording, so that when you put it to a tape of unknown provenance on the machine, you wind it very carefully, at first, to see that it's not going to be sticky. Although there are other signs. When you take it out of the box, it may have a certain odor. If it's back coated with a carbon black back coating, that's a good sign that it might be a problem. If it seems to stick as you try to unschooled it by hand it doesn't. It doesn't hang straight off the real that's another possible clue. [00:18:58] On the other hand, tapes of the very first public concert, planned public concert by the Gay Men's chorus, which was 1978, another impromptu concert on the assassination of our milk with their plan concert, those tapes of 78 I put them on the machine and it sounded like they were made yesterday. [00:19:18] Like perfectly well. So [00:19:20] whenever it else you mentioned damaging the the audio of the content, what kind of damage can be done [00:19:27] to tape? Well, again, the main problem is [00:19:32] damaging, destroying, removing, obliterating the magnetic emotion, which is the side of the tape that faces the heads and contains the actual magnetic encoding and the recording so you can come off, it sounds like nothing. It's a it's a drop out or it's a loss. It's just it's a loss of audio. I've only found one tape so far that was so badly damaged that I could not play it and it was blocked. A blocking is when the layers of tape have adhered to each other layer by layer. This usually occurs when a tape is stored in very high heat and humidity. And a tape like that is very, very difficult to salvage. You know I'm not if this was the last Elvis studio session, maybe it will be worth a million dollars to [00:20:19] take a year to take this tape apart to make it play. But it takes that kind of heroism with a tape like that if it's blocked. The sticky should problem is usually not doesn't stick to itself so badly but to the machine. Another problem of course is what they call stiction, which is kind of a sticky friction with the machine and transmits mechanical squeals and actually messes up the recording. So you're a squealing pitch with the tape. That's a related phenomenon to sticky shed. Generally, that's a loss of lubricant, which is more difficult to treat. Sometimes that can be [00:20:57] handled by playing back in a cold temperatures. She would literally take the tape and the machine into a refrigerator and and get it to play at 40 degrees. Everything's at 40 degrees and it will play. That's an extreme measure. [00:21:14] We've been talking about tape and we haven't actually I don't think defined what tape is because I think for a lot of people, they'll be thinking our cassettes, you know small tape, right? What can you describe the tapes that that Randy has deposited? What kind of tips on there? [00:21:30] Well, I'm bash open the cassette and pull out the little tiny reels. And all that naked ribbon of plastic is the tape. It is a long ribbon of polyester. Generally, the earlier tapes are made of acetate. But all the tapes I'm working with are polyester. And it is for radio It was a quarter inch wide. And that's to track stereo. And it's coated on one side with a soup, very finely ground magnetic metallic particles mixed with lubricants and glues and who knows what, and that's painted on one side of the tape. And that's what actually holds the magnetic imprint of the recording. And then the other side is either just plain polyester, it looks shiny like tape, or its back coated with a cart kind of a carbon black process, which helps the tape move more smoothly on the reel and dissipate static electricity. But it's also the culprit in many of these sticky tapes. [00:22:37] So how much tape would you need to record say a [00:22:40] 58 minute program? Well, you know in general, a 10 inch reel of tape will hold an hour at a standard thickness of tape and there's a thinner kind of tape that allows you to put more tape on the reel and that will hold generally about 90 minutes of material. A smaller seven inch reel behold about 30 minutes at that standard, thicker size, you know consideration is the hardiness of this tape. The thinner it gets, the more susceptible it is to breaking and open reel tapes and contrast to con cassette. Open reel tapes and contrast the cassettes are subject to so much handling and potential damage and contamination. It becomes a real concern. [00:23:21] So Randy's collection actually would take up quite a lot of physical space, I'm guessing. [00:23:27] Yes, well, all of these tapes, which are what maybe a half inch or less thick, since the reels we have the aluminum reels or plastic bottles with the tapes in boxes are then stored up right in bankers boxes, and there are 23 of those in his collection. But that's nothing because we have another collection of 43 boxes that I've been too afraid to open so far, but I will get around to it. [00:23:53] And what do they have. [00:23:56] They were produced by a man named David Lambo, who was a radio producer for many years and also worked on this fruit crunch program. So I'm very curious about the contents. But that is a very far ranging and a less predictably organized collection. I've opened a few boxes and seen reels, tossed in unboxed at odd angles, with bits of tape unschooled here and there. And that's very simply very time consuming to handle that material. The other collection, I did the Kevin Burke collection, many of those reels were stored in what we call pancake form, in which the tape is wound about a hub, but not placed within real flanges simply carefully taped together and put on a piece of styrofoam maybe in a box. And one has to take that and assemble it into a metal reel in order to play it. And if you weren't quite careful, yes, it's the equivalent of 52 card pickup except you have an hour's worth of taped at all, in a very spectacular fashion cascades to the floor. I could tell by the look on your face that you're not totally unfamiliar with this phenomenon. [00:25:05] So pancakes are an example of the the intense labor that can be required of open real tape. [00:25:12] How long would it take you to go from start to finish on the tape in terms of not only digitizing the save our long program, but actually documenting it and looking at the tape box and looking at all the details, I would say at a minimum two hours best case and that includes the one hour of real time required to actually transfer the to play the real back in real time. [00:25:40] ranging anywhere from there up to [00:25:45] 18 hours, 20 hours if the real needs to be incubated, heat treated to make it playable, natural, I'm able to do something else, the real is in the baker, but it can take that long to actually get through the whole process of playing the tape back archival master documenting it creating a service copy and storing it in some permanent fashion. [00:26:06] What does not have a Muslim, [00:26:09] an archival master is the original digital conversion of the tape, it is meant to be as faithful as possible to the original. So it contains no extraneous material, no artifacts, I try to set the tape up for the Best Playback of the entire tape. And I make no adjustments during the playback. If I find that my levels are I've guessed very badly and the levels are way off, I will generally stop and go back and start the whole thing again, because I don't want to introduce anything into that master that is me fiddling with a knob and not the actual recording. So we want that to be a faithful, very faithful record. And that's at whatever the full fidelity of of our chosen digital format is. Which for these radio tapes has generally been stereo 48 kilohertz sample rate and 24 bit sample depth. From that, then we'll create a smaller file since those files can be quite large will create a smaller file which we call a service copy. And that will be a compressed MPEG four, for example, or mp3 file. [00:27:21] How hard is it to scope a digitization project like like Randy's audio items? I mean, how how do you work out how long this is going to take you? And how long did it take you in the end? [00:27:34] You can plan to a certain extent. But there are always surprises. I think I chose again, I chose Randy's collection, because it was so well organized. And I sense that I was going to have few surprises. And I was right about that. But in other cases, no you can. You can you can pull out a tape that has 30 splices, and they all blow when you wind the tape because the glue is dried up. So then you're replacing 30 splices and sudden this tape takes you an extra hour [00:28:03] and a splice as a cut on the tape. [00:28:05] Yes, yes, quaintly enough, they used to and I did it myself, actually take a razor blade and cut the tape to make edits, and tape it together with a little piece of adhesive tape. And the glue in that tape can simply dry up after 30 odd years, especially if the tape is being heat treated on top of it. And I've had a few tapes where I've had to go back and replace however many splices there were to make the thing playable again, are you find tapes without leader where the recording begins at the very, very end of the tape, and then you've got to put leader on it. So you can white thread it in the machine. So you aren't missing any material on you know, I'm playback? [00:28:45] I'm going off your question now, which was [00:28:48] basically looking at how you scope it. And actually how long it would take, ultimately, [00:28:55] well I, again, the scoping. One tries to set general bounds, but there are always surprises. I have learned [00:29:06] to do my best but then to just pick up a box and start pulling reels out. And if I know that I'm going to be able to convert the entire collection, then I'm not going to worry that much about the precise order in which I bring out the material, I will just reach in and pull out another real and have at it because I know I'm going to go through all of it. Randy's collection, well, I got into a rhythm of doing about six programs a day. [00:29:38] Because it was so well organized, you know, I would do the documentation while the tape was playing back I had an hour to look at the other tapes and look at the the written docs and transfer them. So it was a pretty compact operation. I can't remember how long it actually I could find out for him. I don't remember it is I have all of my dates recorded that I actually transfer the material. It took me from, I would say march to about April, [00:30:10] maybe two and a half months or so working rather steadily. five days a week or so on that. [00:30:17] I made it my job for that couple of months because there's so much tape, I figured well, this is actually my job to plow [00:30:24] through it. And so that was all volunteer work. Yes. [00:30:28] So I would be there at the archive, that transfer I made at the archive, I obtained a reel to reel professional reel to reel player made by Atari, the last manufacturer of open reel tape machines. In fact, it was only one model on from the last machine that I worked with. Back in the 80s. So I was quite familiar with it. I brought that in and my computer and my external sound card. And they did all the transfers right there at the archive it would be there every day. [00:31:02] That's a huge commitment. [00:31:04] Yeah, but you know, it's some It was almost like working in radio again. You know, when we work in radio, and you're the they don't call you a board operator for nothing. [00:31:15] Sometimes it could be a bit boring. Well, while you're playing tapes back for an hour or two, I kind of got into that rhythm. Although I enjoyed listening to the tapes, I you know, I did not, I'll tell you a secret and say that I did not listen to every single second of every single tape. I would say I listen to the vast majority of all the recordings. But sometimes I did if I felt the tape was was doing quite well. And these tapes were all in such great shape, I might run out for a bite. But of course I always went through the files visually, which is something we can do now with digital recordings. And if anything stood out, I could go see if there was a blip or a problem. But you know these tapes were in such great shape the machine I never came back to find the machine eating a tape or anything disastrous like that. Other country elections I would not walk away from at all I would be there the whole time. [00:32:04] How hard was it to source a tape machine? I'm guessing that I'm not sure when tape stopped being used in broadcast situations. But [00:32:14] tape machines When did they last get made? [00:32:18] I believe Atari was still selling machines through the mid 2000s. So I would like to say a probably mid to late to the I don't know for sure. But I have the impression they were still available for again from this one manufacturer. out of you know, a number of manufacturers Sony, [00:32:41] Reeboks, and Studer the Germans invented magnetic tape recording, by the way, and also Ampex, which is the big American firm. Out of all of them, only Atari was left. And they made new machines up through, let's say the mid to late 2000s. And that was it. [00:32:57] And so hard. How hard was it for you to source? [00:33:01] Well, you know, I eventually found with her eBay. And using the knowledge that I had, I could ask the right questions, and I found a machine that was in rather good condition. It was a professional machine, but it had been in a hobbyist studio. So it did not have a tremendous amount of use, it wasn't abused like a broadcast machine would be it was a bit customized, the XLR connections have been replaced with RCA jacks. So I the first thing I did was rip those out and put proper next health checks back back in for balanced audio. Other than that, it just needed a little bit of calibration and lubrication, and it was ready to go, you know, for 300 hours of transfers after that did quite well. [00:33:47] You were saying earlier that you were noting some material down as you transferred. So like, I'm assuming things on tape boxes and documentation about the recordings [00:33:59] is Randy's collection was supposedly documented, there were actually rundown sheets inside each box that detailed all of the guests and their titles. So all I really had to do was transcribe that information, [00:34:12] were you doing any other kind of summary or keywords of actually content that was going through was that part of the [00:34:17] job? Now I have not been doing that. And that's that is an important task, especially with our other media, which is not nearly so well documented. But I think that once the material is transferred, it becomes much easier to share it and invite other people into the process, especially people who were around during this era. And that's really the next step for us is to bring some of these people in and look at the material and identify what's happening and create. Well, then beyond that more of the librarian type role is to create indices, I really would love to see us have a subject index for the archive, because we see the same people and events and places to over and over. [00:35:02] So the collection is digitized. What are some of the outcomes now that you have digital files of the audio? [00:35:09] Well, that really is the good question. I was asked this frequently while I was making this huge effort. What are you going to do with all of this, you know, what are we going to do with it? Now that it is so easy to to play back, so we did decide to make it publicly available. by uploading it to the Internet Archive, which is a free, completely free parking space. Really, it still took a huge amount of time because we did not have a fast upload pipe. So it took quite a few days even to get these compressed service copies uploaded. But once we did, I built built a web portal in a database, a searchable database for downloading the material. And that's turned out to be a pretty big hit I think we've had, I saw the number of the other day, something on the order of 9000 downloads in the last couple of years of this material. So it's not on the word. It's not like YouTube, but it's pretty good. [00:36:04] With the any considerations given to the fact that these were radio programs, like one off broadcast radio programs from the 70s that are now being made available to anyone in the world at any time. And I'm just wondering if there were people in those recordings that maybe didn't want to be on the internet? Was there any? Did you come across any of those kind of issues? [00:36:30] No, I really didn't. You know, we own the recordings outright, because Randy retained copyright when he was normally as a producer, you'd be working for hire and the station would own your the results of your work. But Randy made a different arrangement. And he retained the copyrights. So he was able to do that to us. So we actually do own the copyright in the recordings. Now there are a few of the usual stick your questions of are we playing someone's musical composition? Is he playing some musical composition? We don't necessarily have all the documentation to show, you know that we own [00:37:07] we don't necessarily have the documentation to show on all the subsidy or copyrights. You know, when you play that back on a radio station, the station has a blanket license, which enables them to play any pretty much any music they want. But no so far, well, you know how it is you proceed on a complaint spaces, right? After all, we're not out here, we're offering it for free, you know, we're not to try and make a lot of money. We're a little nonprofit place. So we haven't run into the issues and you're talking about people not wanting to be made available? Well, you know, they were willing to go on the radio, and let thousands of people in the Bay Area hear them anyway, at one time. [00:37:45] And not. And I wonder for quite a number of these recordings that people actually in them have probably passed on. And and like, I wonder if there was also an issue in terms of you know, with a family friends are actually hearing these recordings for the first time and maybe 2030 years. Have you had any feedback from from people in that regard? [00:38:06] No, [00:38:08] I simply haven't. [00:38:10] Well, you know, think about the about the 80s is that as as the AIDS epidemic was spreading, there's just simply a whole generation of people who are missing. [00:38:23] You know, they and all their friends are gone. It's a big gap. [00:38:28] So not all of them, certainly, but many, many of them. [00:38:33] And the material that I've been working with both audio and video is primarily from the 80s, a little bit of 70s, but primarily 80s. It's hard, it's really hard to estimate the impact of, of that epidemic, on on the culture. Maybe that's another reason that history is so important to preserve, because a lot that this is great discontinuity. So many people are going we're bridging in a way, since they're not available to carry it forward. Many of them [00:39:05] so in listening through the 256 episodes of, of the gay life, what have been some of the most memorable audio moments for you. [00:39:16] As I mentioned, these very early tapes, which are not part of the gay life proper, but are of another series. Were very curious to me the gay liberation show, which was done by a couple of guys who also had a book to sell called the gay liberation handbook. But the whole sense of the times one of the shows has a bathhouse add a radio ad for a bath house on it. [00:39:41] That was very striking interview with divine. I don't know if their tapes one divine was here in town. [00:39:48] An interview with gay male hustlers working Polk street in the early 70s. I guess it's always a matter of distance that which is most distant from you seems somehow quaint and precious, which is closer to you doesn't seem so special. And then you meet people younger than yourself, who suddenly think that now is special, right? [00:40:10] So I mean, some of the older gentlemen still around of it looks like it's Polk street with whatever. Anyway, I digress. The other thing that that really strikes me is from the gay life proper, and that is a definitely Randy's montage called White Knight black dish. And I really enjoyed because it captures a very historic time and around here, when people were rising up and protest against the acquittal, or the near acquittal of Dan white, his conviction on much lesser charges than he deserved. And also it's it's expressed in this really wonderful artistic way. With music, dramatization, documentary clips, that's the sort of thing that radio can do at its best instead of just being a jukebox. So I wish I'd heard more that already is program but that really stands out to me. [00:41:06] I would say also some of the live event recordings, especially of the the Knights of candles, which are the annual memorials of Harvey Milk's assassination. There's some very compelling material there as well. But we did recently did a radio show in San Francisco to play a lot of these historic clips. And so I pulled out a few things that stood out to me. Yeah, I think was a lot of the documentary recordings of events, especially protest events, live unpredictable, audio that stand out to me, ready did a lot of programs that were very important in a documentary sense a lot of public meetings, but which tend to be drier in terms of their immediate impact when you listen to them. [00:41:54] Randy was fond of a psychiatrist who had a theory about how to psychiatry got Dan white off the hook. [00:42:04] And he used that interview a number of times, that was one challenge in transferring the programs, I will admit, what Randy did do as a good producer would do was not re record the information which degrades it when you're working with analog, and digital, you're going perfectly copy but an analog you can never make a perfect copy, he actually cut out that interview as well as this white knight black dish, he would cut it out and move it to a different show. So I would have the rundown for the show and be missing material from the real. And I finally had to put together he usually made a note about where it went. But then I would get to the next stop and say it was pulled from there and went to the next one. So what I did do, [00:42:50] I'm trying to I don't remember right now, if I messed with the archival masters and not I don't think I did. [00:42:57] I know for the Listen, I think I left the archival Master, they were again, because they should reflect exactly what's on that real today. But for the listening copies, I did go back and light in the material that had been in that program. So it sounds like the program that was broadcast. [00:43:13] One of the things I've noticed and doing preservation projects on lesbian and gay radio show is earlier than my time is I suddenly get really drawn into the issues that are being discussed and sometimes get really inflamed and, you know, angry for the issue. And always have to, at the end of the day kind of distance myself from it and saying that actually this happened 50 years ago. [00:43:40] That's not going to help getting inflamed about it. Did you find yourself walking out at the end of the day after hearing six hours worth of material? [00:43:49] in that kind of state? [00:43:52] Well, yes and no, I would say inflamed No, because I'm that's simply not easily. [00:44:02] But stirred, definitely stirred. And also cast into kind of a time travel. Especially when working with a large collection that spans a number of years. I did feel like the time traveler on an accelerated schedule, because here I was going through six weeks a day of this program. And I would become familiar with the with the issues and a person would pop up again. And I would think Oh no, here he is, again, with beating his old drum. So it was kind of like being there. But it was an accelerated trip through time. Yeah, definitely. I felt like I was in that I was somewhere in time. [00:44:44] Like a bad movie reference. [00:44:47] But inflamed or really, you know, angry. Now, I don't think so. [00:44:53] I mean, I wasn't angry all the time. But there were there were certain It's okay. I mean, there are certain issues we understand, you know, if there was a, sorry, a legal issue in terms of adoption, or same sex partnerships or whatever, [00:45:06] you know, really kind of [00:45:08] rile you up? Well, you know, the, the this time period was [00:45:13] not as full of in your face, anti gay people as it had just been, you know, we're talking about Anita Bryant, and the Moral Majority, which is really the late 70s. This collection really picked up a little bit after that. So I wasn't encountering so much of that. And Randy was not I can he's in San Francisco, San Francisco, even as early as the 80s was becoming more insulated from that kind of opposition, simply because it had become a magnet for gay people. And there was a lot of solidarity. By no means were there. No homophobes around, but it was not like many other places in the world at that time. So I made it that's reflected in it. What was being debated and discussed, here were issues of somewhat higher orders that just don't beat us up. You know, for example, being able to teach or even to get married, there were shows in the early 80s, with guests saying we're sure that gay marriage is right around the corner. And this is 30 years ago. So that did strike me how much and how little progress we've made and in different ways, over 30 years time. [00:46:20] And what about in terms of voices and how people speak to in the language they use that [00:46:27] change? Do you know, I did not notice that much difference from the 80s to today. And maybe that reflects on me as well. Because I was an adult in the 80s. I will say the 70s programs, the 73 programs, and definitely some of the language I remember as a child, but does stand out to me when they talk about were completely straight face and they say well, that's your trip. [00:46:54] area that was really a far out experience, you know that suddenly, there's this great hippie ring to that did stand out a little bit. trip was a word which was very popular, [00:47:07] possibly a direct reference. [00:47:12] So now what is your next preservation project? [00:47:16] Well, I'm just finishing actually working on a very huge video collection, approximately [00:47:25] how many hours but it's been about 700 cassettes of a professional video production library, again, mostly from the 80s. I'm finishing that up. [00:47:35] I'm probably going to go and do a little more video right away of the [00:47:41] the Marlon Riggs collection that I spoke of. In terms of audio, really the big nuts here is the David Lambo collection, which is a very important and very large, and, and possibly fairly difficult collection to get through. So I want to get my machine rehabbed a little bit before I take that on. It is amazing how hardy audio tape machines are, especially compared to video tape machines. But [00:48:11] you have that collection, I have a feeling there's a lot of material in there, which may or may not be in our scope. I believe this man donated his entire library of open reel tapes. And he worked as an arts producer and arts critic. So we will approach some of these fine lines that we've talked about before, do we keep this merely because this is a gay man reporting, you know about something that is possibly unrelated, you can always make an argument. It's related if it happened in San Francisco, I guess, but we're going to be visiting that. And again, it's simply the labor intensive of open rail tape [00:48:49] handling of the tape, the sticky showed problem the splices and such that make that really huge project 43 cartons of tapes. But some of them are quite different going back into the earlier 70s. And these fruit punch programs that I would really more of the that far out trippy stuff that I want to hear. And I admit, you know, I like doing this not only because it's important, but I also I can feel it kind of like a time travel. And I'm delighted to hear different things in here different voices and learn about other times. [00:49:22] Do you have any help? And I'm thinking that not only do you have to have the right equipment to do these transfers, but you also need [00:49:30] skilled people suffer? No, you know, it's, um, [00:49:35] it's a hard process to, to come up with a new division of labor for I suppose what extent I suppose one could have one person who is preparing tapes and doing the transfers, and then creating the, the service copies or that sort of thing, there's not a lot of opportunity to, to, [00:49:56] to have a workforce, in part because it's hard to come by machines, you know, if I could get 10 attorneys that are in good condition and get 10 or 20 people to help well, then we'd be done with it much more quickly. But that equipment simply isn't available. And also the it's the experience and the expertise and some of this stuff is quite difficult to work with. And so having been through a few hundred hours of it really makes a difference, to know what to look for. Of course, the last thing we ever want to do is damage a tape. You know, we always want to err on the side of caution. So if there seems like there's going to be any problem, and I'm very happy to say that I have only barely heard a few seconds of tape here and there on reels that turned out to, to be have surprises in them. Sometimes, you know, people put different brands and types of tape on the wall and when the one real and you don't always can, you can always see it. So you'll be flipping through and think oh, this is a perfectly fine real, I can rewind this and suddenly run into a patch of sticky tape. [00:50:55] So I can never I can never wind at full speed with these old tapes unless I know exactly what I'm working with. That kind of thing that makes it difficult to pull in a force of 20 volunteers, volunteers and just have at it. [00:51:10] We don't want to rip things up. [00:51:12] So this is all about preserving the past. And I'm wondering, and we've touched on it a wee bit. But I'm just wondering, does the society have any program to bring in material that has been created now. So that things that are happening nowadays are deposited in a timely fashion? [00:51:32] Now we really don't, as far as I know. Now we don't do we pretty much have waited for things to come. Or we know what collections that are out there that we may it's a bit more a bit I admit, [00:51:45] keep an eye on. [00:51:48] Things don't always tend to get donated during the creator's lifetime, you know, so we can keep an eye on things. But we don't have an ongoing repository sort of production. Now we don't have any that program. [00:52:02] It's not our mission. And what is the mission, the mission of well is again to preserve historical material. So what's being created today will be historical. [00:52:15] But it isn't necessarily yet. And I think also that we have many more mechanisms in place to to preserve media now, now that it's all digital to begin with. You know, if people think it's important, all you have to do is keep it on your hard drive in a studio somewhere, archive it off on a tape, and it saved. It's not like these old tapes that required oodles of space. And there were expensive and frequently got reused and wiped. It's simply a different environment production environment also we have much more dispersed production. Now. There was a time when you know, one had to go to a studio or a station to make a recording because we had all this gigantic expensive equipment. Now people can put together quite decent radio programs in their dining rooms are separate dining rooms across the country at the same time. So it's a it's a different media landscape anyway. [00:53:08] But I think, you know, Gerard can speak more to the I'm not giving you any official. Paul always tells me this don't speak for the side. So I'm not I'm trying you should know that I really am not an official with Historical Society. I'm a volunteer so I can tell you what I know. But I'm not necessarily giving you gospel on policy.
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