The Elliston Digital Collection
While the Elliston Residency was established in 1951, on-site recording did not begin in earnest until 1954. Traditionally, recording was performed by an undergraduate who worked in concert with the room's Curator. The undegraduate engineer would haul the room's Ampex 601 "portable" suitcase recorder to the event location, set up close to the reader at a small desk and feed line-level input directly to magnetic tape. Legal permissions and often-humorous taping notes ("audience really exploding on this one," "mind the profanities ten minutes in") accompany many of these early recordings, such as this 1954 visit by Robert Frost.
The archival process moved to external dynamic mics (like the venerable Sennheiser 421, Shure 55S Unidyne, and 57) and modern formats: from 1/2" to 1/4" ferrite tape, then to cassette, and ultimately to digital recorders. All recent recordings have moved to lossloss and archival digital codecs, though the online collection ensures accessibility via inclusion of MP3 formats as standard.
Analog recordings dating back to our first in 1954 have been stabilized, digitized, and mastered for loudness and noise reduction– all without losing the palpable energy of the writers (and the audiences) they read to. You can browse them by visiting UC's Digital Resource Commons.
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