Digitization of the William D. Workman, Jr. Audio Reels – Part I

(c) Daniel P. B. Smith / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

The William D. Workman, Jr. Papers include 66 recordings on reel-to-reel tapes. The recordings were created between 1938 and 1971. They include several recordings of Workman, mostly as he talked about his book The Case for the South or campaigned in 1962 to represent South Carolina in the US Senate. Although he was not elected, he was able to obtain enough votes to show “that a Republican could win a state-wide race.”[1] The rest of the tapes capture other political voices of the time, including those of Edgar A. Brown, Barry Goldwater, Fritz Hollings, Olin D. Johnston, and Strom Thurmond.

These rare and valuable recordings are a treasure, but one at risk of being lost due to the deterioration of the tapes. During an inspection, many of the tapes were found to be suffering from “vinegar syndrome.” This irreversible phenomenon occurs as the acetate bases of older tapes and films break down. It receives its name from the smell of the acetic acid created as a byproduct of the deterioration.

To preserve as much of the tapes’ contents as possible, we have contracted with the audiovisual preservation company Scene Savers to digitize the recordings for us. We recently got word that they received the tapes and have started digitization. We are looking forward to hearing the content and (hopefully!) making them available to everyone as a digital collection. We should have an update before the year is out.

[1] Finding aid for the William D. Workman, Jr. Papers, p. 2

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