Category: About the RSA

Spin Doctors: FAU restoring children’s records damaged by Superstorm Sandy

By , July 1, 2013 5:41 pm
By Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel

June 30, 2013

A pile of stained, mildewed debris from Superstorm Sandy has turned into a nostalgic treasure trove for Florida Atlantic University.

A collection of 786 vintage children’s records including “The Little Engine That Could” and “Black Beauty” were inside a Long Island garage when the hurricane-like disaster struck last October. The recordings, mostly 78 rpms, appeared to be ruined due to dirt and mud on the records and stains on their jackets.

But FAU has found a way to bring the stories and music back to life. The Recorded Sound Archives at the Wimberly Library on the university’s Boca Raton campus has embarked on a project to clean and repair the damaged records and digitize and transfer their contents to an online collection. It’s an effort that requires both modern computer software and old-fashioned elbow grease.

“We are excited to be working with such rare and wonderful artifacts from the 20th Century,” said Maxine Schackman, director of the sound archives. “I can’t wait to see the reaction when we are able to share our work online.”

The website likely will be created in November, Schackman said. Researchers, students and others who are interested will be able to access the digital versions of the recordings via FAU computers or a special password, restrictions that are necessary due to copyright.

The collection is full of literary and pop culture classics, including “Bozo Sings,” “Peter Rabbit” and “Mary Poppins.” While most combine stories and songs, some are music only, like “American Folk Songs” and “Alphabet Songs.” There’s a full array of Christmas-themed records as well as plenty of educational ones. A 1947 record called “Little Songs on Big Subjects” includes a gentle call for racial equality.

“You can get good milk from a brown-skinned cow. The color of the skin doesn’t matter nohow,” the song goes.

The record collection was donated in April by Peter Muldavin, whom FAU officials call the world’s leading expert on vintage American children’s records. Muldavin, who was out of the country and couldn’t be reached by the Sun Sentinel for comment, says on his website he’s been a lifelong collector but started accumulating kiddie records only in 1991 after seeing one in a used record store and remembering it from his childhood.

He then took out “want to buy” ads in antique newspapers and flea market magazines and was swamped with responses.

“People had these records sitting in their attics and basements but didn’t know what to do with them,” Muldavin writes on his website. “There was no established hobby yet.”

Alethea Perez sorts through some of the nearly 800 vintage kiddie records that were donated to Florida Atlantic University’s Recorded Sound Archives.

Due to mold and mildew damage, the library is discarding many of the story books and paper doll cutouts that accompanied the records affected by Sandy, but photographs of the printed matter are being taken and will be digitally restored using Adobe Photoshop.

Almost all of the records are salvageable, Schackman said. Some are warped, and many are encrusted with mud and must be washed by hand.

To help with the restoration, the archives department has bought a vinyl record flattener, a device that slowly heats the recording between heavy metal plates. The department also has software that can reduce background noise from old vinyls.

The sound archive started in the 1980s as a Judaica Collection of vintage works by Jewish artists, but in 2009 expanded into other genres, including jazz and children’s recordings, after the donation of 60,000 records from the family of the late Jack Saul, a Cleveland collector. That collection included 556 children’s recordings, all in good condition.

Benjamin Roth, a Sound Archivist at Florida Atlantic University’s Recorded Sound Archives, cleans a batch of records from the nearly 800 vintage kiddie records that were donated to the Sound Archives.

Archives technician Ben Roth contacted Muldavin, author of the book “The Complete Guide to Vintage Children’s Records,” last year, months before Sandy formed, for advice on finding some specific titles for FAU’s collection.

When a tidal surge from the superstorm brought 20 inches of sea water into a family garage at Long Beach on Long Island, hundreds of recordings stored there lost practically all their value in the collector’s market. So Muldavin asked FAU if the archives department wanted them.

The Boca Raton-based archivists were thrilled. The collection represents a period in American culture, mostly the 1940s and 1950s, when vinyl replaced the hard shellac material that had been used for records, Schackman said. Vinyl was more kid-friendly since it was less prone to breakage.

The works also represent a period before many families had television sets, and when children’s records were a popular form of entertainment.

“It’s a certain time in history that won’t ever be repeated,” Schackman said. “This was the age of innocence. Times were simpler then, more naive.” or 561-243-6637

Restoration operation

The process that will be used at Florida Atlantic University’s Recorded Sound Archives on the damaged records:

• A technician cleans the 78 rpm using a special ultrasonic wave machine, similar to the unit used to clean jewelry. Distilled water and a small amount of Jet-Dry rinse agent are used.

• If the dirt is excessive, the record is hand-washed. A hair dryer is used to dry it.

• The record is then digitized, using a special turntable that plays the record and captures the audio onto a computer sound card. Sony Sound Forge software is then used to eliminate clicks, pops and other surface noise.

• The album jacket and any accompanying books or cutouts are photographed. Adobe Photoshop is used to remove any dirt or deformities.

• The audio clip and album art are cataloged.

Scott Travis

Listen and view these original children’s recordings on the Recorded Sound Archives website.

Martin Bookspan: My friends Leonard Bernstein & Aaron Copeland

By , July 1, 2013 10:02 am

Martin Bookspan: classical music maven

Martin Bookspan had life-long friendships with two great classical music geniuses, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

As the voice of the PBS television series Live from Lincoln Center from 1976 to 2006, Martin Bookspan riveted audiences with his eloquently distinctive voice and extensive knowledge of classical music. The N.Y. Times (May 24, 2006) described Bookspan as  “One half erudite informer, the other half grandfatherly guide, [who kept audiences] tuned in during intermissions with easy-to-digest program notes and anecdotes.”

A generous supporter of the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries, Bookspan spoke before a sold-out audience at FAU Libraries’ 2013 Kultur Festival in March.

Still debonair and  dynamic, Bookspan demonstrated that he has not lost an iota of his stage presence or his ability to mesmerize an audience as he shared wonderful stories and personal photographs of his friends Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

Now you can experience the uniquely personal stories of this classical music maven for yourselves. The Judaica Sound Archives has created  video clip highlights from this unique event for you to enjoy. Of special interest is the broadcast recording of Martin Bookspan interviewing Leonard Bernstein live on the radio.

Please click below for video clip highlights from Bookspan’s appearance at FAU’s Wimberly Library  in March 2013.

 My Friends: Leonard Bernstein & Aaron Copland

Presented by Martin Bookspan at FAU’s Wimberly Library on March 5, 2013

Aaron Copland at the piano with Leonard Bernstein


(1) Bookspan talks about the young Leonard Bernstein

(2) Bookspan interviews Leonard Bernstein

(3) Bookspan remembers Aaron Copland

(4) Copland’s Lincoln Portrait

(5) Concluding remarks



Boca Magazine highlights FAU Sound Archives Collection

By , June 28, 2013 2:49 pm

In a small room on the fifth floor of FAU’s Wimberly Library, zippered bags clutch dozens of record sleeves of vintage children’s music, relics from another time. There’s Bongo, a circus bear unicycling on a tightrope and voiced by Dinah Shore. There’s “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” whose record sleeve depicts just that. There’s the Three Billy Goats Gruff, Pinocchio, Little Toot and Humpty Dumpty. One album cover, featuring Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, includes a pencil-written note in the margin: “To: Dick Hertz. Birthday, Jan. 20, 1951. From: Mommy.”

These forgotten treasures are currently the domain FAU’s Recorded Sound Archives (RSA), which began in 2009 as an extension of its popular Judaica Sound Archives; nowadays, the institution restores and digitizes lost and important music of all kinds. These recently obtained children’s record sleeves, their once-vibrant cover art damaged by flood and mold from Hurricane Sandy, are mostly second copies from the vast collection of Peter Muldavin, the world’s foremost expert on vintage children’s records. When his Long Island storage facility suffered storm damage, he donated its contents – 786 records – to the RSA, whose passionate archivist, Ben Roth, is a friend. Some of the 78 rpm records date back to the 1920s, bearing price tags of a quarter a piece.

The restoration business, on Roth and company’s end, is a long and painstaking one. They are still in the process of entering all the data, with plans to release some of their results through their website starting in January. Roth showed me a bit of the RSA’s fascinating restorative process, some of whose accoutrements look like something out the old Mousetrap game. First, the records are dipped, like strawberries in chocolate, in a motorized tank devised for cleaning jewelry, in which ultrasonic waves eliminate the ingrained dirt. Then they are positioned in front of an industrial hair dryer haphazardly duct-taped into position on a metal stand – an appropriately primitive way of cleaning these analog goodies.

As for the damaged, crackly sound of the records, that can be polished by more modern means – Sony’s Sound Forge computer software. The sleeves have been photographed and inventoried for digital restorations, but unfortunately the originals in the zipper bags will be discarded – their damage is too severe.

If you make an appointment, you may be able to listen to some of these recordings in the RSA’s headquarters, while admiring the collection’s vintage turntables, including an entirely hand-cranked 1911 Victrola and a 1924 credenza model that Roth says “cost more than a car” at the time of its manufacture.

Link to original blog post:

A Music Mitzvah

By , August 29, 2012 1:05 pm

Manning Martus (at left) with sister, Allyn, and mom, Devra

Manning Martus, along with her younger sister, Allyn and her mom, Devra, visited the Judaica Sound Archives at the Wimberly Library on FAU’s Boca Raton campus in October 2011.

She was looking for Mitzvah Project that reflected both her interest in music and her respect for her cultural heritage. And. She had a plan.

I was delighted. She had all sorts of ideas about how to encourage her friends and family to donate recordings to the JSA. “I think people have these recordings and aren’t using them,” she told me.

What about folks who don’t have any old Jewish records lying around the house? “I also plan on getting financial contributions from people,” she replied.

When Manning and her family made a return visit to the JSA on August 20,2012 they were full of smiles. . . . and so was I! I learned that Manning’s Bat Mitzvah (June 9, 2012) had been a great success and that Manning had done such a wonderful job singing that she was invited to join the B’nai Aviv Synagogue adult choir.

Manning was enthusiastic about her Mitzvah project. It  was fun for her to bring together her passion for music with the opportunity to do something important in her Jewish community.  By talking about the JSA’s website and mission she encouraged monetary donations and also donations of recordings from personal music collections.

Manning plans to continue her efforts on behalf of the JSA.  She plans to raise money by selling “Save the Music” bracelets to members of her congregation and others.

To show our appreciation of her efforts we presented Manning with a special JSA record label commemorating her achievement.

To learn more about making a financial contribution click here.

It saddens my heart

By , February 14, 2012 3:25 pm

Sam Greene was the first volunteer at the Judaica Sound Archives.

Sam Greene

Jan. 11, 1923 – Feb. 8, 2012

It saddens my heart to think that Sam will no longer be here at the Judaica Sound Archives. Sam Greene was a dedicated JSA volunteer who began offering his assistance in 2002. He unpacked recordings, examined them and checked databases. Because of his language skills he was often called upon to provide English translations of Yiddish, Hebrew  or German songs and text.

Sam was a wonderful singer and would often spontaneously serenade us with songs. Always upbeat, pleasant and fun to be around, the JSA volunteers and staff  looked forward to his visits. Sam made me smile. As a survivor of the Holocaust he was very familiar with difficult times.  Yet, he cherished life and  and enjoyed sharing his good humor with all those around him. Sam was especially fond of this song, Der Rebbe Elimelech.

Here is how JSA sound technician, Ben Roth-Aroni, remembers him.” Sam was already volunteering at the JSA when I first got here in 2004. I liked him right away. He was warm and friendly and there was something about his voice that welcomed you. I especially looked forward to the days that he would volunteer so I could speak some Hebrew with him which was great. He loved to help me with translations and I was always happy for the help. It was obvious how much he enjoyed his work – always singing along with songs that needed to be identified. I will miss him terribly and remember him with love.”

Sam Green is survived by his daughter, his son, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He brought smiles to so many.  He will be very missed.

Old-style Record Store Opens in San Francisco

By , December 14, 2011 2:43 pm

The Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University Libraries was delighted when our friends Josh Kun and Roger Bennett told us that they  were putting together an album of Tikva Records favorites!  As you may remember, the JSA provided many of the LP covers for their book,  And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl, which was published in November 2008.

Now, as part of the Idelsohn Society, they have released the album,  Songs for the Jewish-American Jet Set: The Tikva Records Story 1950-1973. To celebrate this accomplishment they have opened a 1950′s style record store right in San Francisco’s Mission District (3191 Mission Street). The store is open for business from December 1st  through the end of Hanukkah (December 28).

Of course, we wish them great success.  So the Judaica Sound Archives sent them seven cartons of Jewish LPs (many of them on the Tikva label) to be offered at their record store.

Click here to find out more about what they are doing.

Preserving Jewish culture with digitization – NYC Conference

By , November 16, 2011 1:55 pm

Dr. William Miller (Dean of FAU Libraries) at the Center for Jewish History in NYC

I just spent two days in NYC at the Center for Jewish History . Over 125 scholars and librarians from around the world, including Dr. William Miller (Dean of FAU Libraries) and myself,  gathered to share our expertise using digital and internet technologies for the study and preservation of Jewish culture and history.

Coordinating such preservation efforts and minimizing duplication is a massive undertaking. The purpose of this conference was to create connections between the various institutions and projects in order to foster communication and partnerships.

Many of the presenters talked about projects which were enormous and diverse. Gunter Waibel, Director of the Digitization Program Office at the Smithsonian Institution spoke eloquently about the challenges of coordinating many and varied collections of items.

CJH is located at 15 West 16th Street in Manhattan

We listened to presentations about digitally reconstructing ancient sites in Israel, preserving ancient manuscripts, and the status of 3-D digitization efforts. As you would expect, most of the conference concerned itself with written materials and cultural objects.

At the Judaica Sound Archives our only concern is to rescue and preserve Jewish sound recordings. It was inspiring to realize that we are just one part of a larger world-wide effort. I was delighted to see Aaron Lansky of the National Yiddish Book Center who had been so important in our early efforts to create an archive of Jewish recordings. I also had the opportunity to meet with Lisa Rivo, associate director at the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University.

This event provided a wonderful opportunity for us to share concerns and to learn from others in the field. I left the conference feeling honored to be a part of this historic effort and confident in our direction.

Vinyl record give-away

By , November 3, 2011 6:07 pm



On Wednesday, November 2, 2011 FAU students and staff vistied the archives, checked-out the demonstration of obsolete audio equipment and browsed through vinyl LPs as part of the first ever Snap-shot Day at FAU Libraries!

The free record give-away will continue through the month of November on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 on Wimberly Library’s 5th floor.

Students also enjoyed demonstrations of the Recorded Sound Archives antique and obsolete equipment. Many had never seen a 78 rpm recording, a Victrola phongraph, an 8-track tape player or a 45 rpm record changer before.

FAU students hear 8-track tapes for the first time and learn about how this technology began and why it died out.

RCA Victor 45 rpm record changer circa 1948 – 1955

1924 RCA Victor Victrola 78 rpm player.

JSA at FAU Libraries receives gift in memory of Barry Serota

By , October 14, 2011 12:04 pm

Blanche Serota embraces a copy of the specially-created record label that honors her son, Barry Serota. Photo Credit: Alethea Perez

 BOCA RATON, FL (October 4, 2011) –Florida Atlantic University recently received a gift in memory of the late Barry Serota, an attorney, record producer and executive director of the Chicago-based Institute for Jewish Sound Recording. Serota was widely known for his deep knowledge of Jewish music and produced more than 100 recordings of Jewish sacred and secular music. His productions at the Institute for Jewish Sound Recording included choral,   instrumental, folk and art music.

Serota’s mother, Blanche, donated 1,500 LPs, more than 700 78-rpm discs, 100 digital audio tapes and 1,443 audio reel-to-reel tapes to the Judaica Sound Archives (JSA) at FAU Libraries in honor of her son. The collection includes rare record masters and pre-production one-of-a-kind recordings.

“Barry Serota devoted his life to collecting great Jewish music and producing high-quality recordings,” said Maxine Schackman, Ph.D., director of the Recorded Sound Archives at FAU Libraries. “Although we knew this was a wonderful donation to the JSA, we really couldn’t be sure what treasures we would find. Many of these recordings are legendary in the world of the cantorial arts.”

Blanche Serota became acquainted with the FAU Libraries when Ben Roth-Aroni, JSA’s sound technician, called to offer his condolences following Barry’s death. During his youth, Roth-Aroni worked for Serota as a tape editor and greatly admired his expertise in the field of Jewish music. Roth-Aroni encouraged Blanche to visit FAU Libraries, and during her February 2011 visit, she arranged to donate her son’s treasured collection to the JSA.

“She wanted to honor his memory,” said Schackman. “It comforted her to know that what he loved so much would find a warm welcome and a permanent home at the JSA.”

The JSA has digitized and compiled a collection of 56 albums produced by Barry Serota. The recordings can be heard on the JSA website at Musique Internationale.

For members only

By , September 15, 2011 3:01 pm

If you like Jewish music, you will love A Bis’l Taam  (A Little Flavor), JSA’s most recent compilation of songs now available on CD.

Recorded from early 20th century 78 rpm phonograph discs the album contains snippets of 21 songs. You will be amazed at the beautiful sound quality and the range of music.

This CD is not for sale.  It cannot be purchased anywhere.  It is ONLY available to JSA members. When you become a member of the JSA* ($36) you become eligible to receive this wonderful CD containing digitized portions of songs from the Yiddish theater, folk songs, cantorial masterpieces, klezmer, and music performed by Jewish artists. A special link has been created for members only so that you can hear each song in its entirety on the internet.

This CD heritage album contains performances by Cantor B. Chagy, Kandel’s Orchestra, David Medoff, Morris Goldstein. Benny Bell, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Cantor J. Rosenblatt, Cantor G. Sirota, Cantor S. Kwartin and many others.

Celebrate the New Year by becoming a member of the JSA and enjoy your Jewish music heritage all year long!

To find out more about JSA Thank You gifts: click here.

*The portion of your payment that qualifies as a charitable contribution will be reflected on the receipt you receive from the FAU Foundation Inc. The amount of your payment that exceeds the fair market value of any consideration you received in the form of privileges or other benefits will be the amount that may be deductible as a charitable contribution. Consult with your tax advisor for deductibility of your charitable gift.

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