How do I preserve my audio/visual collections?

Audio-visual collections include a wide range of formats (e.g., discs, tapes, films, records, cylinders) and materials (e.g., plastics, metals, wax, shellac). The most effective and economical preservation measures for saving the physical objects are preventive: proper storage, storage environment, and handling. Playback machines, however, eventually become obsolete and are not usually possible or practical to preserve and maintain. Therefore, preservation of personal A/V collections may include preservation of the physical objects, but must include conversion and maintenance to a current/digital format.

A quick Internet keyword search reveals a range of providers that can digitize/reformat home A/V collections. Look for a provider that specializes in archival or preservation transfer of the specific original format. Avoid providers that outsource the reformatting work overseas. The Library's published answer to the New York Times Ask An Expert on "Tips on Archiving Family History” includes a list of vendors.

For tips on care of optical discs, grooved media, and cylinders, see: Care, Handling, and Storage of Audio Visual Materials. For tips on care of motion picture film, see: Care, Handling, and Storage of Motion Picture Film.

For further information, see Caring for Audiovisual Material (Connecting to Collections) and Storage and Handling of Media Collections (Northeast Document Conservation Center).

Read about Audio Visual Preservation at the Library of Congress.


Last Updated: Mar 02, 2021
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Send written correspondence to:

Preservation Directorate
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C.  20540-4530

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We cannot provide: conservation (including review, examination, treatment), digitization/reformatting, access to/use of Library of Congress equipment, project funding, appraisals, recommendations for products or vendors, materials testing or analysis, preservation courses or classes, and/or responses to vendors seeking to sell or promote commercial products.