Listen in The Elliston Archive

An Ampex Leather "Suitcase" Reel-to-Reel Recorder

While the Elliston Poet-in-Residence was established in 1951, on-site recording did not begin in earnest until 1954. Traditionally, recording was performed by a UC undergrad 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 a line-level input directly onto magnetic tape. Legal permissions and often-humorous taping notes ("Audience really exploding on this one!") accompany many of these early recordings, such as this 1954 visit by Robert Frost.

As audio innovation arrived, the archival process moved to external dynamic mics (like the venerable Sennheiser 421) and modern formats: from 1/2" to 1/4" ferrite tape, to cassette, and ultimately to digital field recorders. All recent recordings have moved to lossloss and archival digital codecs, though the online collection ensure accessibility via MP3 formats as standard.

Analog recordings have recently been stabilized, digitized, and mastered for loudness and noise reduction– all without losing the palpable energy of the writers and the rooms they read to. 

The position of undergraduate-engineer still remains but as the Elliston Digital Intern; the room trains talented new UC students in fundamentals of recording, tracking, mastering, and digitization. They are frequently writers (of prose or poetry) and have their own rich history of stewardship in the room.