For almost a year now, the "Internet Archive" has been digitizing 78 hard disk records under the Great 78 Project. The phonograph records are the oldest format that was used before LP (microchannel). Plates of 78 rpm are covered with shellac – a natural resin excreted by females of some insect-insects. This is a fragile material. Therefore, they need to be preserved most of all, these records can be lost forever.
By now, the archive of digitized records of the Great 78 project has grown to 25,989 records. They date from 1902-2013, and most of the records fall on the heyday of the shellac plates, that is, in 1939-1954.
According to the estimates of the activists of the "Internet Archive", in the period from 1898 to 1950, about 3 million three-minute records on 78 rpm plates were produced. Although those of them that have commercial value, later restored for LP and CD, but still the original artifacts are of great research significance.
20 collections were selected for physical preservation and digitization by the "Internet Archive", now there are about 200 000 records. The main work was taken by the studio digitizing audio / video / film George Blood, L.P ..
Digitized records in free access allow researchers from around the world to study rarities without jeopardizing the original medium. When digitized, they are not subjected to any processing by filters. All noise, sometimes very significant, is intentionally retained. The researchers publish for each record several records obtained by reproducing four styluses of different shapes and sizes (2.3-3.8 mm, pictured) so that different kinds of analysis can be performed. The best sound quality is achieved when using a truncated conical stylus 2.3 mm.
Shellac plates are truly an abandoned format. Plates are very ancient, and if an unprepared person simply takes one of these plates in his hands – it can immediately fall apart. "Archive of the Internet" allocated funds for preserving, just in case, not only digital records, but also the originals themselves. This increases the likelihood that future generations will retain access to our cultural heritage, in digital or physical form.
The "Internet Archive" is not the only one who is engaged in the digitization of shellac plates. Separate entries from enthusiasts can be found on YouTube.