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Grant number like: PD-230659-15

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University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA 94704-5940)
Andrew Garrett (Project Director: October 2014 to March 2022)
Erik Mitchell (Co Project Director: June 2016 to March 2022)

Documenting Endangered Languages - Preservation
Preservation and Access

$200,000 (approved)
$199,261 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2015 – 4/30/2018

Linguistic and Ethnographic Sound Recordings from Early Twentieth-Century California: Optical Scanning, Digitization & Access

The digitization of over 2,700 sound recordings of Native American languages on wax cylinders held at the University of California, Berkeley, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, using optical scanning techniques developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The University of California, Berkeley, is the repository of an American cultural treasure in over 2,500 early twentieth-century wax cylinder recordings of Native American speech and song. Some are the only known recordings of a language; many are the only known recordings of particular songs or stories; all are invaluable for scholarly research and the broader purposes of cultural and linguistic revitalization. Previous work using mechanical playback methods to transfer the recordings to modern sound media and digitize the result yielded low-quality sound files. This project will apply new technology (developed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) to produce optical scans of all wax cylinders in the university’s collection, from which improved audio transfers will be created. At UC Berkeley, the work will involve institutional collaboration among the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the University Library, and the Department of Linguistics; collaboration with Native communities will increase access to the resulting material.