How to Digitally Archive and Share Historical Photographs, Documents, and Audio Recordings

Chapter 6. Good and Best Practices for Making Audio Recordings

Key Points.

·        Informal recordings of spontaneous stories or memories can be made at any time and may be the only opportunity to record important historical information.

·        Audio recordings for slide shows and more formal interviews usually have more focused content and the opportunity for better quality recordings.

·        Make recordings before a person’s memories begin to fade with age. For older persons whose memories are fading, opportunistic informal recordings are often the most productive strategy.

·        Always ask permission before recording someone.

·        Good practice is to record at 44.1 kHz/16 bit (CD standard). High quality MP3 files (192 kbps or higher) may be used if needed due to limitations of the recorder or storage space. Best practice is to record audio at 44.1kHz/24 bit or 96kHz/24 bit.

·        Small recorders are available that are suitable for both informal and formal recordings and improved models frequently appear.

·        An external cardioid condenser microphone gives much better sound quality than the microphones built into the small recorders. Position the microphone as close to the speakers as possible and facing away from sources of noise.

·        Archived audio recordings should have associated documentation similar to archived digital images.



Audio recordings can have unique historical value. Not only can memories and stories of the past be easily preserved for future generations, but recent stories that will be historically valuable in the future can also be archived. In addition, significant events such as funerals or children’s performances can be directly recorded. Audio recordings are usually easier to make than written descriptions, and they are much simpler, less expensive, less intrusive, more flexible, and easier to archive than video recordings.

Historical audio recordings can be classified into three categories.

1.     Informal recordings,

2.     Slide show recordings,

3.     Formal recordings such as interviews.

These categories are described below.

6.1 Informal Recordings

Informal audio recordings can provide a record of stories, memories, and events in virtually any situation. The recordings can be spontaneous and can be made with essentially no interference with on-going activities. The basic strategy is to opportunistically get what you can when you can. I have recorded at dinner tables, in motel rooms, in restaurants, in cars, at cemeteries, and in churches. The quality of informal recording is typically not very good due to background noise and people being different distances from the recorder; however, it does assure that the information is preserved. This is a very valuable strategy when other opportunities to capture the information may not occur. The initial informal recordings also may be the basis for more formal recording sessions later. If better recordings are obtained, they can replace the initial ones. Do not be surprised if the informal recordings turn out to be the sole record for many important memories and events.

Small digital recorders that can be carried in a pocket are optimal for informal recordings. With a little practice, the recording quality usually will be acceptable for archived family memories, even if it does not meet the standards for a professional presentation. The cost and overhead of making informal audio recordings are small compared to the risk of irretrievably losing the information. When I listen to recordings made a few years previously, I am often shocked at how much information they contain that I have forgotten. It is comforting to know that the information has been recorded and archived.

6.2 Slide Show recordings

Audio recordings for slide shows are typically planned and therefore more controlled and better quality than informal recordings. Although an informal recording may sometimes be used in a slide show, the more common situation is that the recording is made specifically for the slide show. The recording may be of a person telling a specific story or reading a prepared transcript or letter.

A quiet room can be selected for the recording and the recording equipment can be set in an optimal manner. A good recording of one person speaking is simpler than recording interactions of multiple people. Perhaps most important, the recording can be redone until the results are satisfactory.

6.3 Formal Recordings

Formal recordings of interviews are the basis for oral history and can be a very effective way to collect historical information about a topic. An interview is typically more focused and goal-oriented than an informal recording of spontaneous conversation. The interviewer wants to know about certain topics. Both the interviewer and the interviewee may find this focused approach easier.

Recording an interview is more challenging than recording for a slide show. Two or more people need to be recorded, and redoing the recordings is often not an option.

6.4 Practical Matters

Historical recordings should be made sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, many families do not begin making recordings until the key people have aged to the point that their memories are fading. When recording sessions are finally done, the people too often respond that they do not remember for questions that they could have easily answered a few years earlier.

A standard set of questions for collecting historical information about a person for a family history archive is provided at

Formal recording sessions with significant equipment often make people self-conscious and less natural. This is a major issue with video recording and should be greatly reduced with audio recording. However, the tradeoff between focusing on the person being interviewed versus focusing on the recording equipment cannot be eliminated. This tradeoff is most effectively handled by doing both informal recordings that emphasize spontaneous content and more formal sessions that produce more focused information and better quality recordings.

The strategy of informal recording often works best when attempting to record older people whose memories have faded. Memories are no longer available on-demand for these elders. Instead, there may be flashes or bursts of memories that occur unpredictably and are best captured without distraction or interruption. Potential triggers for memories can be arranged, such as having an audio recorder running while looking at photos. However, there is no assurance as to what will happen in any given session. Talking and recording in the morning usually gives better results than in the afternoon in this age group.

Always get permission from those being recorded before recording. As noted in Chapter 9, permission is legally required in some states and is the ethical practice in all cases. I have never had any resistance to recording when the topics being discussed were of obvious historical interest. In fact, the key people with historical knowledge often soon suggest recording when they think of something that might be of historical interest. The recording can actually help people in a group relax because they do not need to make notes or try to remember everything that is said.

With a small recorder that can be placed inconspicuously on a table, people readily agree to the recording and quickly forget that the recorder is running. In collecting information for the Yoder history project, Amish people gave permission for audio recording of their historical information, even though it is against their religion for photos or videos to be taken of them (and of course the recording equipment had to be battery operated when used in their homes).

 6.5 Audio Recording Format

·        Good practice is to record audio at 44.1 kHz/16 bit in uncompressed wave format. High quality MP3 (192 kbps or higher) is acceptable if needed due to limitations of the recorder or for storage space.

·        Best practice is to record audio at 44.1 kHz/24 bit or 96 kHz/24 bit in uncompressed wave format.


The most common recommendation for historical recordings is to use the wave file format recorded with PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) with at least 44.1 kHz/16 bit (44.1 thousand samples per second with a 16-bit number for each sample). This is the recording standard for CDs and covers the range of human hearing. The CD standard obviously gives adequate sound fidelity for most situations, and certainly for recording human speech. Wave files are the uncompressed audio counterpart of TIFF files for photographs and have the extension .wav in the file name on a Windows computer.

An alternative that is increasingly recommended by audio professionals is 96 kHz/24 bit. These recording frequencies extend far beyond the range of human hearing and beyond the range of most microphones. These higher rates are used when creating and working with the master originals of music and video recordings, and may have benefit when recordings are extensively modified. Although the value of 96 kHz can be questioned, the 24 bit depth is useful in maintaining accuracy when calculations are done to process a recording.

MP3 recordings are the best option with certain recorders or when storage space is severely limited. However, these are compressed files that have loss of sound quality each time the recording is modified and re-encoded. High quality MP3 recording rates should be used if possible. A minimum of 192 kbps (kilobits per second) is appropriate for archival recordings, and higher rates such as 256 kbps or 320 kbps would be safer, particularly if noise reduction or other processing is expected.

Some recorders create Windows Media Player files (file name extension .wma) or other proprietary formats. These cannot be read by all audio software and are not suitable for archiving for a 50-year timeframe. If the source files are proprietary such as wma, they should be converted to wave files for archiving, or to MP3 if wave is not an option.

6.6 Selecting an Audio Recorder

An audio recorder needs to be small to be readily available for informal historical recordings. Ideally, the recorder would fit in a shirt pocket. A small bag with the recorder could also be used. I carry a recorder in a relatively small camera bag along with a camera. However, the small recorders do not have all the features and quality of larger recorders. The larger equipment can be used for formal recordings but are not suitable to carry around casually for opportunistic use. On the other hand, the small recorders can be used for formal recordings with reasonably good results and are a good option for an initial recorder. The best recordings are made using external microphones and the quality of the recording depends more on the microphone than the size of the recorder.

Specific Recorders

Olympus recorders in the DM series ($100-$150) and LS series ($200-$250) are small and are suitable for historical recordings. These recorders can record in both wave and MP3 formats. My experience with the DM-420, DM-520, and LS-11 has been that these recorders have adequate sound quality for recording voice. The LS-11 has better sound quality for music and has a variety of useful features that give much better control and ease of use. The features for the LS-11 include a preview mode to set recording level, continuously adjustable recording level, mono recording in wave format, and recording up to 96 kHz/24 bit. However, the LS-11 is a little heavy for a shirt pocket. Figure 6.1 shows Olympus DM-520 and LS-11recorders. My experience with some other small recorders has been that I cannot recommend them for historical uses.




Figure 6.1. Two small recorders that can be carried in a pocket or bag and used opportunistically for informal recordings, as well as for more formal recordings. An Olympus LS-11is on the left and Olympus DM-520 on the right.




Certain digital recorders are described as “voice recorders,” which are usually optimized for recording conversations and meetings. These may work with music but generally are not optimized for that purpose. Other recorders are optimized more for music and may be described as “linear recorders.” The recorders optimized for music may give better overall sound quality but some models provide less amplification because they assume that the sound being recorded will be high volume. The recorders optimized for voice generally have greater amplification to capture low or distant voices and work well with informal historical recordings. The Olympus DM series are described as voice recorders. The LS series are linear recorders, but have amplification suitable for voice recording.

For most recorders the recording level or recording amplification can be set either automatically or manually. When set automatically, the recorder adjusts the sound level. This can be useful for recording groups or quickly starting a recording, as can occur with informal recordings. The alternative is for the user to manually set the amplification to a fixed value appropriate for the situation. Manually set recording level is often recommended because the automatic control may amplify background noise when no one is talking. The fluctuating amplification of noise can be more difficult to correct later with audio editing software. However, my experience with Olympus recorders has been that the automatic recording level does not amplify background noise.

My usual practice is to manually set the recording level when speaking volume is reasonably constant and to use the automatic recording level for some informal recordings with fluctuating volumes. Better quality recorders have a limiter on the manual setting that will decrease the amplification during loud sounds to avoid distortion. The Olympus LS-11 recorder has a limiter, but the DM-520 does not. Also, the LS-11 has the preview mode to easily check and set the manual recording level before starting to record. The DM-520 recorder requires a test recording to check the manual recording level.

Various larger recorders are available that are intended for formal “field recording.” The Marantz PDM661 ($600 - $650) is a professional level recorder that consistently has very favorable reviews. These recorders are too large to casually carry for opportunistic informal recordings and battery life is a significant limitation. However, the recording quality is high and they would be optimal for a historical organization that intends to do primarily formal recordings, usually with electrical power. Smaller models are increasingly being developed.

Frequent New Models

New and improved audio recorders frequently appear on the market and therefore any recommendations in a book such as this will soon be out of date. The best strategy is to do basic product research at the time of purchase. An internet search for “consumersearch digital recorder” will bring up the integrated reviews and recommendations from the website. These will generally cover the consumer end of the recorders currently available. For recommendations on the higher end or professional level, a search for “oral history equipment” will bring up relevant reviews and recommendations. These focus on recorders for formal recordings and usually are not optimal for those planning more opportunistic informal recordings.

The range of recording equipment and opinions about appropriate equipment vary dramatically. A good external microphone can easily cost as much or more than a recorder and different types of microphones are optimal for different recording conditions. Some audio professionals recommend that the recording equipment be setup and managed by a sound engineer. Realistically, most historical recordings are made without the ideal high-end equipment and expertise, and the value of the final product depends more on the content of the recording than on the technical details of the equipment. Of course, the recordings do need to have an acceptable quality that is not distracting to listeners. But that does not require the effort and expense to address the refined subtleties of recording that some experts focus on and few other people notice. Audio recordings typically involve stories and the technical details are less important when an interesting story is being told.

6.7 External Microphones

For most historical recordings, an external condenser microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern provides much better sound quality than the microphones built-in to the recorder. Condenser microphones have internal electronics that produce relatively high output signals. These microphones require electrical power that can be provided by connections to the recorder or by a battery. The alternative is a dynamic microphone that does not require power and creates lower output signals. The higher output signals of condenser microphones are more appropriate for small battery operated recorders and also are less susceptible to noise in the cables connecting the microphone. Small digital recorders do not have the noise controls on the cables that are present with larger recording equipment. When condenser microphones are used with small recorders, the microphone must operate from self-contained batteries because the recorders do not supply the type of power needed.

A cardioid pickup pattern captures sound coming from the front and the sides to the front of the microphone, but not from the rear or sides to the rear. Pointing a good cardioid microphone away from a noise source can produce good noise reduction if there are not reflections from walls. At the same time, the pickup pattern in front of the microphone is sufficiently broad to handle several people talking. The microphones built into the recorders are usually omni-directional, which means they capture sound equally well from all directions, including any noise sources. Hypercardioid and shotgun microphones capture sound in front of the microphone and not from the sides. However, these pickup patterns also capture significant sound directly from the rear so they are best placed with noise sources to the sides of the microphone. Hypercardioid and shotgun microphones are designed for situations when the microphone cannot be placed close to the person speaking. They need to be more carefully aimed at each individual speaking than cardioid microphones and generally work less well in confined spaces.

External microphones usually record mono (to one channel) rather than stereo recording to two channels. A single mono microphone is appropriate for recording people talking, and can be used for recording simple music such as one person singing. Recording more complex music such as a band, orchestra, or singing group is best done with two or more channels of recording. If only one microphone is used, a stereo microphone is best in these cases. Professional recording of music uses multiple microphones that record to separate tracks and require much additional equipment and expertise. However, music recordings that are historically valuable can be made with one microphone.

Specific Microphones

Two external microphones are described below. A photograph of the microphones is shown in Figure 6.2.

The Sony ECM-MS907 microphone is a relatively inexpensive (about $70) stereo microphone. This condenser microphone uses a battery and has two settings for the width of the pickup in front. It is designed for small recorders, has a cord that plugs into the microphone jack, and comes with a small stand that can be set on a table or held in the hand. The small size may be appropriate for informal recording but it requires more space and planning than a small recorder alone. It is suitable for more formal recording in environments with relatively low noise or when noise reduction will be done with audio editing software.

The AKG C1000S condenser microphone is much larger and more expensive ($200-$250) than the Sony microphone above, and produces significantly better sound quality and noise reduction. An optional adapter is included that enhances the clarity of speech and is particularly beneficial with the raspy voices of older people. An alternative adapter converts the pickup pattern from cardioid to hypercardioid. The microphone is appropriate for formal recordings and comes with a formidable carrying case. It can use a battery for power and requires a cable with an adapter to convert the standard XLR microphone connector to the microphone jack on a small recorder. The cable should be 6 feet or less to minimize electrical noise. A Hosa XLRF to 3.5 mm TRS is designed for this situation and puts the microphone mono output on both channels of the stereo plug. Hosa model XVM-101F has a cable one foot long and XVM-105F has a cable five feet long. (Note that the more expensive adaptor cables with line-matching transformers are for dynamic microphones and in my experience are not beneficial for condenser microphones.) Standard microphone stands have 3/8 inch threaded screws for connecting to the microphone. The microphone can be used with a standard camera tripod if a 3/8 inch to 1/4-20 adapter is placed on the microphone holder that comes with the microphone. With the adapter, a small table-top tripod or larger tripod can be used as a microphone stand.




Two microphones that can be used with small recorders.

Figure 6.2. Two external condenser microphones that can be used with small recorders.  A Sony ECM-MS907 is on the right and the larger, higher quality AKG C1000S is on the left.  Both can operate from internal batteries.




The discussion above focuses on recording human speech. A stereo microphone is best if music such as a band, orchestra, or singing group is recorded. The Sony EMC MS907 stereo microphone above could be used. The Sony EMC MS957 (about $260) is a higher quality stereo microphone that is designed for recording music with small recorders. It may be a good choice if frequent recording of music is planned.

Those who are planning to do only formal recordings with larger recorders have more options for microphones. Condenser microphones do not need to have battery power because the recorder can provide power. The standard low noise XLR cables can be used. The AKG C1000S microphone discussed above is also a good option for this type of recording. An internet search for “oral history equipment” will find reviews and recommendations for the products currently available.

Individual models of microphones tend to stay on the market for years and are not frequently upgraded like digital recorders. A good microphone will not become obsolete in a short time as occurs with most electronic technology.

6.8 Making the Audio Recording

The steps described in this section are applicable for formal recordings and can be used to the extent reasonable for informal recordings. The basic steps in making an audio recording are:

·        Be prepared with extra batteries for the recorder and microphone. Delete old files on the recorder to make adequate storage space available.

·        Place the microphone and recorder to capture useful sound while minimizing noise. In highly noising environments hand holding the microphone may be best. If recording outside with any breeze, place a foam windscreen or other windscreen over the microphone.

·        Eliminate significant noise sources when possible, such as turning off air conditioners and phones.

·        If an external microphone is used, turn it on and pay attention to the battery check.

·        On the recorder, set the recording level to manual or automatic. For manual recording level, set the level and turn on the limiter if one is being used, set the output format, turn on the low-cut filter if recording speech, and if an external microphone is used turn the power to the microphone on or off as appropriate (if that is an option for the recorder).

·        Check the recording level and noise with ear phones or ear buds and with the recording level display on the recorder. Adjust microphone placement to reduce noise if needed.

·        Turn on the recorder for the main recording.

·        Record 5 to 10 seconds of room noise with no speaking at the beginning and/or end of the recording.

·        Periodically check the battery levels on the recorder and microphone. Continually monitoring the recording with ear phones or ear buds is the safest strategy when possible.

·        If an unexpected distracting noise occurs such as a phone ringing, repeat the comments without the noise if possible.

·        After the recording is finished, copy the files to a computer as soon as possible. For important recordings, do not delete the files from the recorder until at least two copies have been made on different devices.


Informal recordings will often have little or no preparation for microphone placement and the recorder settings may be based more on previous experience than monitoring the current recording. The recording level displays usually can be checked even in informal recording.

Microphone Setup

The optimal location for a microphone is a few inches from the mouth of the person speaking, and below or to the side of the mouth. In highly noisy environments hand holding the microphone close to the speaker’s mouth may be the best way to get reasonably good recordings. However, in the majority of cases the microphone will be placed on a table or stand roughly 2 feet from the person speaking. Of course, informal recordings may have much greater distances, and different distances for different speakers. A good digital recorder will pick up sound that can be understood even in these less than optimal situations. Some microphones and most recorders are not designed to be held in the hand during recording and pick up large amounts of noise from the hand. Careful handling is needed with any microphone and recorder.

When one microphone is used with multiple people, the people should be in front of the microphone. They can be sitting side by side or on the corner of a table. If several people are being recorded it may be necessary to put the microphone in the center of the table or group. This requires an omni-directional microphone such as the ones built-in to most recorders. It is important that the location for the recording have very little background noise in this situation because the microphone will pick up all noise.

Recorder Setup

Most recorders have a display that shows the loudness of the sound being recorded. Some recorders such as the Olympus LS-11 have a preview mode that shows the sound level display without actually recording. Other recorders such as the Olympus DM-520 show the display only while a recording is being made, which means a test recording is needed to set the level. The optimal recording level usually has typical sounds in the middle of the display. The Olympus DM-520 has only three recording levels while the LS-11 has continuous adjustment of recording level. For a microphone two or more feet from the person speaking, one of the higher recording levels will typically be best.

For digital recordings it is important that the peak loudness not exceed the maximum that can be recorded. Most recorders have some type of warning when the peaks are exceeding the maximum. Some recorders have numeric values for the sound level display. These usually range from zero on the high end to a negative number on the low end. The numbers are in decibels with zero decibels being the maximum loudness that can be recorded. For recording speech, an optimal recording level would have the typical voice at about ‑12 decibels and the peak loudness at about ‑6 decibels or ‑3 decibels. However, good recordings can be made with lower recording levels, as may occur due to variations in the loudness of those speaking.

6.9 Digitizing Analog Recordings

Tape recordings or other analog sources of historical audio can be digitally archived for preservation and distribution. Equipment to play the original recording is required. The best quality recordings are made by connecting a recorder to a playing device using standard line-out and line-in jacks on the equipment. These are the typical connections on a component stereo system. A less desirable option is to utilize earphone and/or microphone jacks. Note that the intended voltage for a microphone jack is less than the voltage for the line-in and line-out jacks, and the voltage for line-in and out jacks is less than the voltage for an earphone jack. A recording device can become overloaded and not function properly if incorrect connections are made, as can easily occur between microphone and earphone jacks. Also, the sound processing for earphone and microphone jacks is not optimal for connections between devices.

One of the easiest methods to digitize analog sources is to play the original recording on a component stereo system and connect a line-out jack on the stereo system to a digital recorder that has a line-in jack. For example the Olympus LS-11 has a line-in jack that can be connected directly to a line-out jack on a stereo system. An adapter cable is needed that converts the standard audio RCA plugs to a 3.5 mm (1/8 inch) stereo mini-plug.

Another method for digitizing the output from an analog audio system is to use a computer. An analog audio system can be connected directly to the line-in port on the computer. The line-in port is usually a light blue 3.5 mm (1/8 inch) jack. An adapter cable is needed that converts the standard audio RCA plugs to a 3.5 mm stereo mini-plug. If the computer does not have a line-in port, a USB audio interface adapter can be used that connects the standard RCA jacks of an audio system to the USB port of a computer. A Behringer UCA202 USB Audio Interface ($25-$35) is a good inexpensive option that produces better results than the built-in audio processing in some consumer computers. A wide variety of other USB audio interface adapters are also available, but many have poor reviews.

When a computer is used for digitization, audio editing software such as Nero WaveEditor, Adobe Audition, or the free Audacity program are used to make the recording. Audio recording with a computer requires that various settings for the operating system, sound card, and audio editing software have certain values and are consistent. The recording device and format may need to be specified in different places. There is so much variability among the different software that it is not possible to offer guidelines for handling these settings. With a Windows operating system, settings may need to be made under the Recording tab on the Sounds item in the Control Panel. The sound card software is usually accessible as an icon in the notification area on the lower right of the Windows desktop. Recording with audio editing software is usually configured under options for recording or hardware. My experience has been that the first recording on a given computer rarely goes smoothly and the efforts to get recording to work can adversely affect other audio functions on the computer. I prefer to use a digital audio recorder when possible because that process is much simpler.

When use of a line-in jack is not possible, special cables can be used to connect to earphone or microphone jacks. A special adapter cable (Olympus KA334) comes with the LS-11 recorder that can be used to connect the line-in jack on the recorder to the earphone jack of another device. Another special cable (Olympus KA333) is intended for connecting the earphone output of a device to the microphone input on the recorder when that is the only option. Although these recording methods do not provide the very highest quality, the results will be acceptable for the great majority of listeners.

If an audio system with connections for digital recording is not available, the best option is to find a commercial service that can digitize the original recording. The least desirable option is to play the original recording on a device with speakers and record from the speakers with a microphone. However, that option is acceptable if there is no alternative. It also is a safe starting point if there is any uncertainty about whether better methods can be found or will work. A lower quality digital recording is preferable to no digital recording. In fact, the lower quality recording may be consistent with peoples’ expectations for historical recordings.

6.10 Archival Recordings

In this book the term archival recording is used for the original recording that is archived. The term master has a well established meaning in audio work as the final optimized version that is ready for production and distribution. It would be confusing to try to use the term master for this meaning and also for the standard historical terminology that the master is the archived original item.

As with photographs, the best practice for audio is to keep the original recording as the archival recording and work with copies for all modifications. This strategy anticipates that improved technology may be available in the future and any modifications to the originals now may limit future options. However, as noted earlier, if the original recording was made with a proprietary format such as Windows Media Player (file name extension .wma), the recording should be converted to wave or possibly MP3 formats for archiving. Also, original recordings in MP3 format optionally may be converted to wave format for archiving if that is the standard practice for the project.

Some informal recordings may include several hours of recording, but only a small part is of historical interest. In these cases keeping only the historically interesting parts is valuable for working with the recording as well as for efficient use of storage space. Several shorter archival audio files may be kept from one long recording session. In general, informal recordings can be handled more leniently and parts may be excluded from long-term archives. If the original recording is in MP3 format, special programs are available for cutting and joining MP3 files without re-encoding. This avoids degradation due to the encoding process and allows the original MP3 format to be used for archival recordings. These programs are inexpensive and can be found by searching the internet for “cut mp3 without re-encoding.” Beware that free programs to do this type of processing often have malware. Make sure any free audio program has good reviews.

6.11 Documentation

Archived audio files should have documentation similar to archived photographs. Most of the topics discussed in Chapter 4 on documentation of photographs are relevant for audio recordings. A separate text file for documentation is recommended and this should be kept with the archival recording. The basic sections for documentation for audio files are:

·        Name of the file that has the recording

·        Date or estimated date that the original recording was created

·        Basic description of the contents of the archival recording

·        Additional comments and information about the archival recording

·        The source or who provided the recording to the archive

·        Information about the creation of the digital recording

·        Information about legal rights for the digital recording

The description of the contents should include who is talking in the recording and what topics are covered. The section for additional comments can include information that is related to the recording but is not directly contained in the recording. The section for information about the creation of the digital recording should include who made the digital recording and what recorder or equipment was used. As described in Chapter 9, documenting the legal rights for the recording is very important. Any agreements or understandings about restrictions on use of the recording should be clearly stated in this section.


Alten, Stanley R., 2008. Audio in Media, Eighth Edition. Published by Thomson Wadsworth in Belmont, CA.

CDP Digital Audio Working Group, 2006. “Digital Audio Best Practices Version 2.1.” Currently available at

Oral History Association, 2009. “Principles for Oral History and Best Practices for Oral History.” Accessed May 28, 2012 at



[Version of 8/4/2013]

Historical photos and documents

Chapter Contents

Chapter 6. Good and Best Practices for Making Audio Recordings

6.1 Informal Recordings

6.2 Slide Show recordings

6.3 Formal Recordings

6.4 Practical Matters

6.5 Audio Recording Format

6.6 Selecting an Audio Recorder

6.7 External Microphones

6.8 Making the Audio Recording

6.9 Digitizing Analog Recordings

6.10 Archival Recordings

6.11 Documentation


Chapters in the Book

Introduction: Background, Purpose, and Example Archive Projects

1. Basic Principles of Archiving Photographs and Documents

2. Good and Best Practices for Making Digital Images

3. Setting Tone and Color in Master Images

4. Documentation for Historical Images

5. Preparation and Display of Historical Photographs and Documents

6. Good and Best Practices for Making Audio Recordings

7. Preparation and Presentation of Historical Audio Recordings

8. Historical Slide Shows

9. Copyrights and Other Legal Rights


A. Practical Color Management

B. Overview of Scanning Software

C. Effective Resolution of Scanners

D. Using Copy Stands with Cameras

E. Batch Processing of Images

Other Resources

Guidance on Using Scanning Software

Guidance on Using Slide Show Software

Downloads and Links

This website and book were developed by Jim Kennedy.


© 2012 James E. Kennedy