Handling and Storing your Vinyl Records

Throughout the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project our team will work closely with the British Library to support and develop training around the best way to work with analogue sound carriers such as vinyl, open reel and cassette.
In this first of three introductory shorts, we discuss the best way to handle and store vinyl records.

vinyl

Handling

The vinyl collection you have spent years building and adding to is something you will want to look after. It tells a story of who you are and reminds you how important music is in your life.

Below are a few simple tips to keep that collection in good condition …

– always handle records by the outer edges and the labelled area only – never touch the playing surfaces with fingers or any other part of the hand

– once you have finished using the record, return it to its protective sleeve. If the sleeve is damaged, replace it with a new one

– avoid leaving your vinyl on the turntable when not in use, in particular with the stylus resting in the groove

– make use of the turntables’ cueing facility, never lowering the stylus onto or lifting the stylus off a record by hand

shelf.jpg

Storing

Once you’ve finished listening to a favourite musician or band, keeping the vinyl clean and stored properly is an important way to extend its playback life.

Below are a few simple tips to think about when putting your records away or into permanent storage …

– always check your record is free from dust and is unaffected by mould, insects or active corrosion before storing. Try to clean this dust or dirt from your vinyl before returning it to its sleeve.

– always store your records in sleeves. If there is an inner and outer sleeve, the openings of the two sleeves should be arranged at right angles, with the inner sleeve opening at the top.

– when placing your records on shelves, store them upright and without any significant pressure from the sides (but, enough to prevent sliding or warping).

– avoid stacking a single vinyl for any length of time in an upright position with the edge leaning against a vertical surface.

– and finally, never leave your records near a radiator or other source of heat (e.g. computer equipment); nor in direct sunlight

 

If you have any questions about your own collections or want to add anything to the advice above, please do so in our comments sections below.

We would love to hear not only about your collections, but your experience of handling and storing vinyl.

 

 

 

Sound Conservation: Baking Cassettes

During our work on the Unlocking our Sound Heritage project, the team will potentially encounter a range of conservation issues during the digitisation process. For example, how to prepare degrading formats for digital transfer.

Cassettes and reel to reel tapes (particularly the latter) can build up moisture over time, which damages and erodes the material, impairs the sound quality and makes for a poor transfer. This build-up of moisture cannot always be spotted on visual inspection, but playing the tape may give you some audio clues: these can include muffled or ‘watery’ sound, excessive wow and flutter etc. Basically if the audio sounds ‘wobbly’ or muffled, baking may be the solution.

Another problem that frequently occurs is ‘sticky shed syndrome’, where the binder holding the oxide in place on the tape surface begins to break down. In severe cases this oxide can literally powder off on your fingers and create an audible ‘squealing’ sound which can be heard both in the studio and on the recording. This last one in particular is more common with reels, but cassettes can be affected too. Either way, a spell in the oven will be necessary.

Tape baking

In the above example we see a cassette placed on one the trays inside the oven. There are three trays for the baking of multiple tapes. Place the offending items in the oven and cover with the lid. The controls are very simple – set the timer for 8 hours and the temperature for 50 degrees.

Baking tape 2

The tape must be allowed to heat up and cool down naturally, so once the baking process has started, resist the temptation to throw in a couple of extras that you might have missed!

Once the tape has been left to return to normal temperature (ideally on the following day – the sooner the better), the theory goes that you’ll have a brief period of a few days to attempt another digitisation before the tape returns to its former state. The theory also goes that you have ONE CHANCE ONLY to digitise the tape once baking has been completed. It’s generally a good idea to adhere to these guidelines, but also to bear in mind that each tape is unique and can act in different ways. The baking may have completely remedied the problem – and it often does – but isn’t always the miraculous cure you might hope for. There are other tape restoration methods you can try, but that’s for another time.

Unlocking our Sound Heritage is a Heritage Lottery Funded project led by the British Library, for which London Metropolitan Archives is one of ten regional hubs. Discover more via our website.