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Uncovering the Nature of Damage to Early Wax Cylinder Audio Recordings during Storage

The Library of Congress maintains a large collection of wax cylinders, many of which contain ethnographic field recordings from as early as 1890. Wax cylinders can present with several condition issues including cracking during storage. To understand the cause of this issue and guide preservation of these materials, we have undertaken a multi-pronged approach to identify compositional changes resulting from aging with an initial focus on early brown wax cylinders. This work has included the recreation of period formulations as well as the detailed chemical and physical characterization of the formulations.

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