“It’s a very humanizing thing,” says archive curator Christina Davis. “I mean I think audio archives, because it’s so connected to the body and breath — in a way that text is somewhat divorced from — you know, kind of reunite us with the total body.”
But the voices on many of these brittle, early records have been dead — silenced for nearly a century. They’re too damaged to play. That is, until today. [Harvard Researcher Mary] Walker Graham has always wanted to listen to a fragile T.S. Eliot recording with a written note saying: extra word at end.
She says she’s been dreaming about that extra word. “Where instead of, in the end of his famous poem, ‘The Hollow Men,’ which everyone knows the line: The world ends ‘Not with a bang but a whimper.’ I had a dream that it was: ‘Not with a bang but a chicken cluck,’” she says, laughing. “Just last night. So, we’ll see!”
They are going to see, thanks to a new service from the nonprofit Northeast Document Conservation Centerin Andover. In November, NEDCC began offering a preservation technology called IRENE to museums, archives and private Northeast Document Conservation Center.
“IRENE can do something that no other technology can do, which is to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” says NEDCC director Bill Veillette.
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See Also: Learn More IRENE Technology at NEDCC