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A good preservation plan is a crucial component of any library, archive or documentation centre’s strategic planning. At the Canadian Music Centre a large variety of material ranging from manuscript scores, to film and video, to photographs and audio material is collected and preserved for use within our library and archives. It is our task to ensure that the material we collect survives for use by future generations.

The AVTrust Audio Heritage Project

For our Ann Southam Audio Archive specifically, the AVTrust project has given the CMC the opportunity to implement a higher preservation standard to ensure that the record of Canada’s rich concert music heritage is not lost.

Before the project began, the CMC’s collection consisted of reel to reel audio tapes, cassettes, DATs and CD-Rs with no preservation back-up plan. The CD-Rs were in particular danger since the storage medium is relatively unstable compared to earlier storage mediums such as magnetic tape. With AVTrust project funding, we were granted the opportunity to complete the digitization of audio from nine hundred 7 ½" reels and four hundred 10 1/2" reels of audio recordings. These reels contained CBC broadcast recordings of live performances of Canadian concert music composed by Associate Composers of the Canadian Music Centre from 1946-1985. In addition to the reel to reel recordings, there were 209 DAT cassettes of archival material. These contained composer submissions as well as CBC radio airchecks of broadcasts of Associate Composer’s works.

The digitization process itself consisted of transferring the CD-Rs, reel to reel tapes and DAT tapes to CD quality WAV files. These files are now stored on a Network Attached Storage Server (NAS) with High Capacity Tape Backup in order to ensure that the quality of digitally archived material survives.

The Future of the CMC’s Ann Southam Audio Archive

Moving all of our audio material to a main digital server has allowed the CMC to begin thinking of increased user access. Presently, this process has been divided into three Phases:

  1. Providing users with streaming online access to audio archive material at the CMC National Library in Toronto
  2. Regional access through the CMC’s other offices (Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Sackville) as well as to its two satellite locations (St. John’s and Amsterdam).
  3. At home subscription-based access

Each Phase requires an investment in technical infrastructure and brings with it specific rights management issues. That being said, the CMC understands the importance of providing Canadians access to their musical heritage and looks forward to the continuation of this very exciting project.


This project was made possible through funding from the AV Preservation Trust and the Department of Canadian Heritage AV Trust Department of Canadian Heritage

Site and Digital Audio Archive Credits