Cornell University Announces world’s largest natural sound archive goes digital

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 15, 2013

News release: “In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” says audio curator Greg Budney, describing a major milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All archived analog recordings in the collection, going back to 1929, have now been digitized and can be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org. “This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab,” said Budney, “and through its digitization we’ve swung the doors open on it in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.” It took archivists a dozen years to complete the monumental task. The collection contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. There’s an emphasis on birds but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates, and more. “Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world,” explained Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. “Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.”

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