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Wednesday, September 20 • 12:15 - 12:45
From International Shortwave to Digital Archive: Transforming Leo Sarkisian’s Music Time in Africa for a New Worldwide Audience

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In January 2015, the US government agency Voice of America transferred the Leo Sarkisian Music Library to the University of Michigan with the goal of digitizing and providing access to the materials for research and teaching. Transfer created an archive where once existed a longstanding music resource that supported all aspects of the production of the VOA’s Music Time in Africa radio program. The archive encompasses sound recordings and type-scripts of the radio program (1965-2004), along with extensive recordings of live musical performances made by Leo Sarkisian in his travels through Africa or by African staff trained by Leo Sarkisian to make professional quality recordings on his behalf—often at the radio stations he helped establish. This paper examines the recorded evidence of Leo Sarkisian’s life’s work as a case study of the successive transformations of archival memory. The first section characterizes the archival properties manifested in live field recordings from nearly 40 African nations and the output of more than 900 radio programs. A second section describes the digitization of the collection according to international standards and the creation of a delivery system for African communities without high-bandwidth Internet access. The third section highlights how digital transformation likely creates new value for the African communities whose cultural heritage was once fixed on contemporaneous live field recordings and radio broadcasts heard only once, decades ago, but now will live on as residual memory that can be reclaimed and repatriated through community engagement. 

avatar for Kelly Askew

Kelly Askew

Professor of Anthropology and African Studies, University of Michigan
Socialism/postsocialism, performance, music & poetry, media, cultural politics, nationalism, pastoralism, Swahili studies, property rights, land conflicts, Maasai studies, Tanzania/Kenya, East Africa
avatar for Paul Conway

Paul Conway

Associate Professor of Information, University of Michigan School of Information
Paul Conway is associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His research encompasses the digitization of cultural heritage resources, particularly photographic archives, the use of digitized resources... Read More →

Wednesday September 20, 2017 12:15 - 12:45 CEST
Ethnologisches Museum, Room 3 (first floor) Arnimallee 23, Berlin, Germany