When I was in high school, I got into record collecting. This hobby was perfect for me as I both love music and the excitement of finding something extraordinary in an unassuming place. My Grandfather was a radio host in Fairbanks for the longest time on KFAR. The station had a massive treasure trove of vinyl records used for the many years of broadcasting that were less than meticulously cared for. One story I had been told was that one of my Grandfather’s coworkers at the station had a tiny Pomeranian puppy they would bring into the studio. During one broadcast, the dog leaped from the disc jockey’s lap onto the turntable that was broadcasting, and the subsequent rush to get something back on air would become a favorite anecdote of the other workers at the station.

When the vinyl record started going the way of the dinosaur, my Grandfather purchased many of them and kept them for personal use. He held onto these records for many years. A few years after he passed, my grandmother learned I had become interested in record collecting. I was told that I could have my pick of the enormous collection. As a vast music dork, I was more than happy to accept the gracious offer and retrieve what would be a wonderful reminder of my Grandfather and the music he loved. Many of the albums contain handwritten notes on songs, how they fared on the air, as well as lots of confusing notes that I am sure only he would know what they meant.

I quickly learned the proper storage and care methods for records that have lived far longer than they ought to. Many of these records are being at that point anywhere from thirty to fifty years old. Vinyl records are an impermanent way to store music. If not correctly cared for, the groves that produce sound can wear away, resulting in losing their ability to play. Unfortunately, this is inevitable, but through the use of isopropyl alcohol solution, the rate of decay can be slowed drastically. Keeping records at the proper temperature can also reduce the rate of decay. If stored in a place that is too hot, the records can become soft. This can warp the grooves or bend the record itself. If the records are stored in a too cold location, they can become brittle and can stay that way long after they have been brought to a warmer environment.

Another portion of record preservation is the treatment of the jackets. The incredible thing about the records I had the great fortune to inherit mostly had excellent quality jackets. Most are made of very cheap cardboard or paper and, much like the recordings themselves, are not meant to be permanent. Humidity is the main factor of deterioration, but covers can also gain a ring in the shape of the record within, often caused by leaning your records at too steep of an angle. Some records come with specialized jackets, often used as a gimmick to catch potential shoppers’ eye. One of my favorites collected albums is a first run pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. This jacket is noteworthy because, in the first few runs of the album, the jacket was made of a plastic leather-like material that adds an elegant shine to the famous photograph of Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks. This cover, since it is made of plastic leather, the jacket is already more resilient than most other jackets.

 

I had become such a dedicated collector that I had my high school senior photos taken at the only record shop in Anchorage. Its kind of silly when I think about it now but I was later Interviewed by the publication Vinyl Me Please about my decision to do so for an article characterizing Obsession Records as the best record shop in the state.

Have you ever had to partake in some kind of preservation yourself?

4 Thoughts to “Vinyl records VS Record Jackets”

  1. Angela Linn

    Very cool personal collection Dylan! And this is a great discussion of how items of contemporary history present challenges for long-term preservation. Here’s a great resource from the Library of Congress to supplement your own protocols: https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/record.html.

    The first thing I thought about was the terribly-unstable plastic sleeve the records fit into inside the cardboard sleeve. LOC recommends replacing with polyethylene, an inert plastic save for long-term storage. This will help block pollutants from the cardboard and provide a more stable environment for the record.

    This is another great resource, addressing some particular issues you might find of interest: https://thevinylpress.com/cleaning-and-archival-standards-of-care/. The staff at the Library of Congress Audiovisual Conservation facilities provide answers to common questions – many of which you’ve addressed in your post. Relative humidity and physical forces seem to be the highest risks, along with pollutants from the materials the disk and covers are made from.

    Congratulations on taking care of this link with your grandfather – keep up the good work!

  2. Michael Hubert

    afternoon, this was a great read , glad to see someone is collecting these and also taking care of them too. this also reminded me of how I have collected comics . and the way to take care of them to make sure that last.

    thank you for your post .

  3. Erin Gingrich

    Hello, thank you for sharing about your personal collection! Its interesting to think of a record as a family heirloom. In regards to your question; I think that answer is yes but I guess that it depends on why/what things are preserved for. As an artist and maker, I have prepared and processed natural materials to seal/preserve and stabilize them in order to use them for artistic purposes. I have made salmon skin leather, claw beads, dried tundra and birds feet, as well as assisted in burying animal bones to clean them. These processes do in some ways preserve there materials but they also alter them extensively as well. As for personal objects I suppose that there are several things that I keep in boxes or wrapped up for protection and when hanging art I do try to consider natural light pollution. Quyana!

  4. Barbara Long

    Good Evening,

    I throughly liked your post. I too have that same album with the cardboard sleeve. Great call Angela on the sleeve. All the vinyl sleeves were not smooth but ruff. If, I remember, didn’t they have a paper covering over the vinyl before it was placed in the sleeve? With this being said, most teenagers didn’t pay attention to their vinyls.These records suffered a lot of abuse and were played endlessly. In response to your question, preservation on a personal level for something I collected, Yes! I think, we all have done some degree of preservation on a collection or prized object. Most objects have a connection to something we remember or emotional/feelings. It is ownership as well. Our very first object that was possessed.Thanks for sharing.
    Respectfully,
    Barbara

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