Harvard to digitize IBA recordings from pre-state period

80,000 hours of recordings will digitized by Ivy-league school; agreement is product of more than 3 years of talks between the two organizations.

IBA 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IBA 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Israel Broadcasting Authority and Harvard University signed an agreement Tuesday to digitize 80,000 hours of recordings dating back to the pre-state period.
It is the product of more than three years of talks between the two organizations.
History conscious people at the IBA were aware that the technology of yesteryear was fast becoming obsolete and unless the archives were transferred to a system compatible with today’s technology, they would continue to deteriorate and a great deal of valuable information about the development of the state, issues that transfixed or galvanized the nation, and, most important perhaps, the voices and images of national icons would disappear.
The problem, as always, was the cost factor. With its huge deficit, the IBA simply could not enter into a multi-million dollar arrangement.
But what may have spurred the IBA to risk at least part of the cost, was the damage done by water leaks and building faults to precious books, manuscripts and other documents stored in the archives of the National Library.
Moti Amir, who is today the manager of Reshet Bet, and was previously head of Israel Radio’s Operations Department, began looking for ways in which to preserve the IBA’s archives. Digitization by Harvard was one of the options explored.
After long months of negotiations with Harvard, an agreement was reached whereby the IBA would transfer copies of some of its archives to Harvard, which would digitize them, keep one copy for the library of the university’s Judaica Department and send another copy to the IBA.
Now, with the change in the Broadcasting Authority Law that, inter alia, will bring in more income from the levy on receivers, and in the belief that the final agreement for the reforms at the IBA will soon be signed thus reducing the IBA’s payroll costs, the IBA on Tuesday signed an agreement with Harvard to transform to digital format 80,000 hours of recordings dating back to the pre-state period.
The process is due to begin next week, and Harvard, as under the previous agreement, will keep a copy for itself.
Preservation of the IBA archives is integral to the reforms, said IBA chairman Dr. Amir Gilat, who seems to relate almost anything that happens at the IBA to the reforms. Gilat declared that this was just a first step towards digitizing all the tapes of Israel Radio and Israel Television. The aim, aside from preserving historic records, he said, was to make such material available on demand to the public at large.
Harvard representative Violet Gilboa said that Harvard contains the fifth largest Judaica archive in the world. The archive is used extensively by academic researchers from around the globe.