Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry Digital Archive User Guide: Audio tapes and recordings

This is a guide to using the Digital Archive to the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (


Online access to the LCAAJ recordings is provided by EYDES (Evidence of Yiddish Documented in European Societies).   EYDES partnered with Columbia in the audio digitization project and contributed to its funding.

Audio samples

The audio contains very rich material far beyond the linguistic answers to the questions.  The below samples include songs that the interviewees sang during the interview process.  (Thanks to Leyzer Burko for identifying these!)

Preserving the audio

The LCAAJ Archive was donated to Columbia University Libraries in 1995 by Dr. Marvin Herzog, Atran Professor Emeritus of Yiddish Studies at Columbia University, in order to ensure its continued existence in the future.  Two years later, the Preservation Division of Columbia University Libraries initiated a project to re-recording all of the tapes; the project finally reached completion in June of 2005.  This major preservation project was assisted by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, and smaller grants from many of the private foundations that had funded the original interviews. 

The preservation work adhered to internationally recognized preservation practices and technical standards for reel-to-reel recording established in the late 1990s.  At that time high-quality analog recordings were considered the best preservation medium because they reproduced exactly the sound waves and could be stored in cold environments for longevity of 50 years or more, while digitization techniques had not yet reached the level of quality attained later in the 2000s.  In order to keep the archival copies as true to the original recordings as possible, no manipulation of the original signal such as noise reduction, filtering or other signal-processing techniques was undertaken. 

Because scholars prefer to use digital versions in order to manipulate the sound and provide access online, the project also produced a digital version.  Digital copies in Wav format were created simultaneously with the analog version, and  stored on high-quality CD-Rs.  The project simultaneously created digital copies in Wav format stored on CD-Rs. 

Ordering copies of the audio

The original tapes, new preservation master tapes, and CDs are all tracked through a database that indicates when each was recorded, where it is housed, and other relevant information.  The recordings are permanently stored in Columbia’s high-density facility, the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium, where they are kept secure in a cool, dry environment designed to promote maximum longevity.  The CD copies are available to researchers at listening facilities provided in Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library.  Researchers may also purchase copies of CDs.