Cornell Posts Massive Sound Archive

The Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has finished digitizing its natural sound recordings catalog dating back to 1929, making it available online for the first time.
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Ithaca, NY (October 13, 2015)—The Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has finished digitizing its natural sound recordings catalog dating back to 1929, making it available online for the first time.

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“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. “This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab. 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,” explains 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.”

The recordings are used by researchers studying many questions, as well as by birders trying to fine-tune their sound ID skills. The recordings are also used in museum exhibits, movies and commercial products such as smartphone apps.

“Now that we’ve digitized the previously archived analog recordings, the archival team is focusing on new material from amateur and professional recordists from around the world to really, truly build the collection,” Budney said. “Plus, it’s just plain fun to listen to these sounds. Have you heard the sound of a walrus underwater? It’s an amazing sound."

Macaulay Library
www.macaulaylibrary.org