In 1977, the University Archives & Historical Collections received the papers of Edward Miller Sr. The bulk of these papers consist of the records of the Sheldon School of Business (circa 1910-1935) of Chicago. The School packaged business courses, primarily selling courses, and then sold them to various business schools throughout the country. The school was a financial casualty of the Depression and in the 1930’s Miller bought the assets of the school. The Sheldon School materials consist of records, publications, promotional materials, scrapbooks, etc.
The collection also includes a box of Dictaphone cylinders, an audio recording format popular in the first half of the 20th century. The first Dictaphone machine was created only a few years after Thomas Edison created his first phonograph recording device, but by 1907 the name “Dictaphone” was so successful that it became a synonym for all recording devices of similar use, even though Edison tried to regain the dominance of his own “Ediphone”. The cylinders in the Edward Miller Sr. collection contain recordings of lectures from the Sheldon School.
Until recently, the only means of playing back the audio recorded onto a Dictaphone cylinder would involve the use of a mechanical stylus, similar to that of a needle playing an LP record. However, no-contact technology such as the imaging tool IRENE at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, MD, can eliminate the possibility of damage caused by the use of a stylus. The IRENE service creates ultra high-resolution images of the audio grooves, then converts those image files into an audio file.
With many archived forms of audio and moving image media being available only on obsolete formats, reproduction of the recorded material on these documents can prove to be difficult. Technological breakthroughs such as NEDCC’s IRENE technology can isolate audiovisual material while still maintaining the integrity of the material’s obsolete carrier.
Written by Matthew Wilcox, Audiovisual Archivist
“History of Dictaphone.” Sound Recording History. www.soundrecordinghistory.net. Web. 18 June 2016.
Open Entry: Michigan Archival Association Newsletter 4.2 (1977): 7. Print.