Cleaning Radio Haiti Reel-to-Reel Tapes

cleaning audio reels
Cleaning magnetic audio tapes.

This week we worked with Craig Braeden from Rubenstein Library and Zeke Graves from the Digital Production Center to test a cleaning workflow for moldy reel-to-reel audio tapes we recently received from Haiti.

Conservation doesn’t have expertise in cleaning magnetic media, so this was a chance to learn more about these materials and to do some cross training.

The method is simple enough. While the tape is running you gently hold a piece of Pellon to the tape to remove the mold. What is more difficult is learning to evaluate the tape to be sure it isn’t too fragile for this treatment,  holding the tape with just enough pressure to clean it but not too much to damage it while it is moving through the deck, and watching for splices. Craig brought over an old deck and we set it up in the fume hood in Conservation. Zeke helped clean and repair the tape when we encountered previous splices.

Craig has posted a brief video on the Devil’s Tale about this collection and what it will take to clean, digitize and make it accessible.

moldy audio tape
Moldy tape before cleaning.

audio tape after cleaning
After one cleaning pass.



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