The Preservation Project | Archives and Special Collections

The Preservation Project – Archives and Special Collections

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The Preservation Project


We have been generously supported by the archive’s donor, Universal Music Canada, in our efforts to arrange and describe the entire EMI Music Canada fonds, which consists of approximately 5,500 boxes of material. Universal’s support has enabled the University of Calgary to devote the time of several members of our archives staff to a thorough archival appraisal, arrangement, description, and processing project.

Since 2016, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided transformative support to the University of Calgary in our effort to develop, test, and execute strategies for preserving a large component of the sound and video recordings from the EMI fonds.

We thank Universal Music Canada and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their commitment to the care, preservation, and use of this extraordinary archival collection.


Since 2016, when the University of Calgary first began to acquire the EMI Music Canada Archive, we have been working to simultaneously receive, organize, describe and preserve it.

Our preservation project objectives are to migrate, manage, provide access to, and digitally preserve a significant portion of the sound and video recordings in the EMI Music Canada fonds.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided funding for the three phases of this project.

  • Phase I: Media Reformatting and Digital Preservation Planning Project: The EMI Music Canada Archive at the University of Calgary (July 2016 – October 2017)
  • Phase II: Renewing Access to Culturally Significant Audiovisual Recordings (October 2017 – September 2020)
  • Phase III: The Long-Term Preservation of Popular Music (January 2020 – December 2021)
  • Purchased equipment, software, and hardware to begin media migration at the University of Calgary
  • Created a dedicated audiovisual preservation studio at the High Density Library at the University of Calgary
  • Established a “cool storage” area for media in the High Density Library.
  • Consulted with AVP on digital asset management and digital preservation planning
  • Created workflows for migration activities being undertaken at the University of Calgary
  • Created requirements for outsourced media migration
  • Conducted separate RFP processes for video and audio recordings
  • Awarded digitization and migration contracts for video recordings to The Media Preserve
  • Awarded digitization and migration contracts for audio recordings to Airshow Mastering, Audio Archiving Services Inc. and Iron Mountain Entertainment Services
  • Selected Cortex by Orange Logic as our digital asset management system
  • Selected LIBNOVA as our digital preservation platform
  • Implementation of the digital asset management system and the digital preservation platform is underway
  • Anticipated launch of the EMI digital collection: late 2021 or early 2022 

Studio Equipment

Audio Monitors

  • Neumann KH310 Speakers (5x)
  • Neumann KH80 Speakers (6x)
  • Neumann KH805 Subwoofer
  • Neumann KH750 Subwoofer
  • Sound Anchor ADJ2 Speakers Stands (5x)


  • Sony MDR-7506
  • Audio Technica ATH-M50X

Monitor Controller

  • Merging Anubis Premium
  • Grace m905
  • Grace m920
  • Grace m900 (2x)

Analog to Digital Converter/Interface

  • Merging HORUS (48 channel AD Premium)
  • Merging HAPI (8 channel AD Premium)
  • Merging HAPI (8 channel DA Premium)
  • RME UFX (2x)
  • RME Digiface (ADAT)

Digital Audio Workstation Software

  • Merging Pyramix – Masscore Extended
  • Merging Pyramix – Masscore Standard
  • Merging Pyramix – Native Essentials
  • Adobe Audition CC

Additional Software Tools

  • SoX Sound eXchange
  • Flux Pure Analyzer
  • Flux Mastering Pack (VST Plugins)
  • iZotope RX 8 Advanced
  • EAC Exact Audio Copy
  • DVD Audio Extractor
  • IMG Burn
  • Foobar2000
  • Dyson-Hess Noise Reduction Decoder System (Beta)
  • Teracopy
  • dBPoweramp

Video Analog to Digital Converter/Interface

  • Blackmagic Decklink Studio 4k
  • Blackmagic Decklink Studio Mini Recorder
  • BrightEye BE75 (x2)

Video Workstation Software

  • Blackmagic Davinci Resolve
  • Blackmagic Media Express
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC
  • Adobe Media Encoder CC

AV Workstation Computers

  • 6x Custom Silent Windows 10 Intel PCs

Power Systems

  • Eaton 9155 15 kVA UPS (x2)
  • Jefferson 37.5 kVA Isolation Transformer
  • Furman P-8 Pro C
  • The Furman P-2400 IT

Audio Playback Equipment

Open Reel Analog

  • Studer A820 1/4″ NAB Stereo + 1/2″ Stereo
  • Studer A820 1/4″ Mono + Quarter Track
  • Studer A820 1/2″
  • Studer A827 2″ 24 Track
  • Studer A827 2″ 24 Track + 16 Track

Digital Audio Tape

  • DAT – Sony PCM 7040 (2x)
  • DAT – Sony DTC 75ES (2x)
  • DAT – Tascam DA-40 (2x)
  • DAT – Panasonic SV-3700
  • DAT – Tascam DA-45HR (24bit)
  • DTRS – Tascam DA-98HR (3x)
  • ADAT – Alesis M20
  • ADAT – Alesis LX20 (2x)
  • ADAT – Alesis XT20

Audio Cassette

  • Tascam 112 MKII
  • Tascam 122 MKIII (2x)
  • Nakamichi CR3A (4x)

Disc Turntable Equipment

  • Esoteric Sound Rek-O-Kut Trovatore Turntable
  • Millennia LOCi Preamp
  • Minus K 25BM-8 Isolation Platform
  • Grado M+ Mono Cartridge
  • Nagaoka MP-500 Stereo Cartridge
  • Nagaoka Archival Playback Kit (7 styli)

Additional Equipment and Decoders

  • Rane PAQRAT RC-24T (24 Bit Splitting)
  • Apogee PSX-100 (24 Bit Splitting)
  • Rosendahl Nanosyncs
  • Timeline Lynx Synchronizer
  • Otari UFC-24 Format Converter
  • Sony PCM-1630
  • Sony DTA-2000
  • Raspberry Pi3 + Retro Printer
  • Sony PCM-601ES (Sony F1)
  • Dolby 363 SR/A Noise Reduction (5x)
  • Dolby XP – SR Noise Reduction (24 channel)
  • HHB CDR-850 (2x)
  • HHB CDR-830 (2x)
  • Arnold Magnetic Viewer B-1022
  • VWR 89511-404 Tape Baking Oven
  • VWR 89511-408 Tape Baking Oven (2x)

Video Playback Equipment

  • VHS / SVHS – Samsung SV-5000W (NTSC/PAL)
  • 3/4″ U-Matic – Sony BVU-820
  • 3/4″ U-Matic – Sony VO-9850 (2x)
  • Betamax – Sony SL-HF2000
  • Betacam/DigiBeta – Sony J-30 SDI
  • HDCAM – Sony JH-3
  • DVCAM – Sony PDW-1500A
  • DVCPRO – Panasonic AJ-HD1400
  • DVCAM HDV- Sony HVR-1500A
  • Hi8 – Sony EV-C25

Imaging Equipment

Photographic Equipment

  • Nikon D850 DSLR Camera
  • Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro Di VC USD R2 Lens
  • Nikon AF-S FX Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED Lens

Additional Photographic Equipment

  • Custom LED Light Table
  • Impact Digital Light Sheds
  • Kaiser RSP Xtra Copy Stand
  • Kaiser RTX Copy Stand

Image Scanning Equipment

  • Panasonic KV-S8147 Document Scanner
  • Epson V850 Flatbed Scanner
  • Epson 12000XL Flatbed Scanner

Digital Image Workstation Software

  • ControlMyNikon Tethering Software
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
  • Adobe Bridge CC
  • Panasonic Image Capture Plus Scanning Software

Audio Formats

1/4 inch open reel – unknown configuration

1/4 inch open reel – quarter-track

1/4 inch open reel – quarter-track stereo

1/4 inch open reel – 4 track

1/4 inch open reel – mono and stereo

1/4 inch open reel – 2 track mono

1/4 inch open reel – full track mono

1/4 inch open reel – mono

1/4 inch open reel – stereo

1/4 inch open reel – stereo with timecode

1/2 inch open reel – unknown configuration

1/2 inch open reel – 3 track

1/2 inch open reel – 4 track

1/2 inch open reel – 8 track

1/2 inch open reel – 16 track

1/2 inch open reel – stereo

1 inch open reel – unknown configuration

1 inch open reel – 2 track

1 inch open reel – 4 track

1 inch open reel – 8 track

2 inch open reel – unknown configuration

2 inch open reel – 16 track

2 inch open reel – 16 and 24 track

2 inch open reel – 24 track

1/4 inch Sony DASH

1/2 inch Sony DASH – 24 track

1/2 inch Sony DASH – 48 track

1/4 inch Mitsubishi ProDigi

1 inch Mitsubishi ProDigi – 32 track


CD-R Audio

CD-R Data


DVD-R Data


DVD Audio

45-rpm vinyl disc

45-rpm lacquer disc

33 1/3-rpm vinyl disc

33 1/3-rpm lacquer disc

78-rpm shellac disc








Audio Cassette

U-Matic PCM-1630 Audio

Betamax PCM-F1 Audio

VHS PCM-F1 Audio

VHS JVC DAS-900 Audio

3.5-inch diskette

5.25-inch diskette

8-inch diskette

Bernoulli disc

5.25-inch magneto-optical disc

Zip disk

Jaz disk

SSL G series disk

Hard drive


Video Formats

1 inch B

1 inch C

2 inch video – unknown configuration

2 inch quad




Betacam SP

Betacam SX


Digital Betacam

D1 videotape

D2 videotape

DCT videotape














CD-R Data

DVD-R Data

DVD-R Video


3.5-inch diskette

The Long Read

The EMI Music Canada fonds provides an opportunity for music listeners and researchers to delve more deeply into the music produced in Canada in the 20th and 21st centuries. Most music listeners are familiar with the studio albums and music videos created by their favourite artists and groups. Studio albums, however, cannot always tell the full story of how an album came to be, or the myriad decisions that led to the creation of album, or the ways in which cultural forces and economic factors influenced the final product. The EMI Music Canada fonds allows people to learn much more about the context in which Canadian albums were created, produced, distributed, and received.

Our aim in organizing and preserving the EMI Music Canada fonds is to provide people with as much helpful information as possible and to give them meaningful and lasting ways to explore the archive.

The most challenging aspects of preserving the media recordings in the EMI Music Canada fonds arise from the sheer vastness, variety, and vulnerability of the recordings. There are approximately 40,000 individual recordings in nearly 40 formats. Some formats are relatively stable and can be accessed for many years without issue. Other formats are obscure, and it can be difficult to find working equipment for playing them.

Responding to a media archive’s vastness, variety, and vulnerability is challenging. On the one hand, we have to create processes that can be performed at scale. On the other hand, we have to respect the uniqueness and rarity of items in this archive. Different types of recordings require different levels of care. Much depends on how well the recordings were cared for, and the environment in which they were stored for decades. Fortunately, the recordings from the EMI Archive were kept in a climate-controlled storage facility in Toronto for many years. The recordings were also produced by professionals in what were usually very high quality recording studios and environments.

It can be expensive and delicate work to preserve the content of a specific type of recording. Physical, mechanical, magnetic, and/or chemical factors can all play a role in the gradual decay of a recording. Equally important is the environment they are stored in and the ways in which the recordings have been treated by their creators. Finally, recordings require specific playback equipment. Working machines of sufficient quality can be difficult to source, afford, and maintain.

The most common way to preserve early sound and video recordings is to convert analog signals to digital signals through the process of digitization. Digitization captures the audiovisual content from the original analogue media and converts it to a digital file that can then be closely managed, monitored, and preserved. Digital recordings that are stored on specific types of carriers such as external hard drives or CDs or DVDs can be transferred or migrated to a more stable digital storage environment.

With such a large archive to preserve, we needed to consider where efficiencies and cost effectiveness would be possible. This means thinking about what types of recordings could possibly be migrated simultaneously with low human involvement, and which recording types call for individualized and painstaking work to be performed, one recording at a time.

We had to determine what formats would be possible to preserve at the University of Calgary, and which would need to be sent to specialist firms with extremely specialized or rare equipment. It would not be feasible from a budget or labour perspective to acquire working playback equipment for every recording format present in the EMI Music Canada Archive and attempt to migrate them all at the University of Calgary. There simply would not be enough human hours to transfer all the recordings in the timespan of our approximately 5-year preservation project.

We decided to perform in-house digitization and migration activities for some types of recordings, and to send batches of other types of recordings to specialized firms for migration. We created a purpose-built studio and filled it with various equipment, software, and hardware. We invested in climate-controlled facilities for long term storage of the original recordings, as well as extensive digital storage space for the digitized recordings. We have invested in two different software systems: one allows us to manage and provide access to the media collection; another works to preserve the collection.

The preservation of the EMI Music Canada Archive is a multi-year project so far, but it is ultimately a “forever” commitment. The work has been carried out by a dedicated team in Libraries and Cultural Resources. We have benefitted from the expertise of other colleagues, experts, and institutions who preserve media materials. If any aspect of the project is of interest to you, please be in touch with any member of our project team.

~Annie Murray, Co-Principal Investigator and Project Coordinator