Silent Sounds, Invisible Images: Reanimating the University's Recorded History

The history of the University of Rochester is not just found in texts and photographs. Our past speaks and moves—it marches, sings, performs, inaugurates, and commences in hundreds of audio and visual recordings dating from the 1920s to the present.

Recorded on albums, audiotapes, films, and videotapes, not only is our history contained by a remarkable variety of formats, but the formats themselves represent a century of the technology of recording, capturing, and transmitting sound and motion.

Efforts toward access and preservation have taken place for decades. Original media were frequently migrated to the then-current format: for example, in 1987, the Valentine inauguration recordings of 1935 were transferred to 1/4 inch audiotape reels and cassette tapes for what would have been convenient playback in the 1980s. Thankfully, the analog originals were retained, and can be used to transfer the recordings once again using the latest technology and the latest formats for storage.

Since 2005, funding for preservation has been provided by the University and River Campus Libraries; the New York State Department of Education Conservation and Preservation Program; donors to the Living History Project for Oral History; and the John M. and Barbara Keil Endowment Fund.

The idea for this exhibition came from Professor Ming-Lun Lee. Since 2015, his Audio Music Engineering course, Revolutions in Sound, has met annually in Special Collections to view a wide variety of audio formats from the University Archives and from collections like that of Chester Carlson, Thomas E. Dewey, and Kenneth Keating.