Beginnings Journey Archiving Project Collection

Our Archiving Project

By the year 2003, we had so many records in the collection that it had become difficult to manage. My wife, Mary Ellen Bickford, and I were preparing for our move to Nashville, and the collection was too large to fit into our Nashville home. Instead, we packed it into a large U Haul truck and I drove it to Colorado to be stored in a large climate-controlled room in my mother's house. It remained there until 2007 when we brought it to Nashville to began the process of transferring the recordings to digital format for use in the Musical Kaleidoscope project.

Don Robertson

"The House"

In April, 2007, we leased the rear portion of this Nashville home, and here we set up an office and recording studio to create the digitized version of our library of recordings.

"The Office"

This was the room where albums, records and tapes were sorted and catalogued. We hired our friend Lydia Wheeler to help us with this work.

"The Studio"

Our friend Wave Baker moved to Nashville for a year to work as our recording engineer for the Musical Kaleidoscope archival project. Wave sat in this studio 12 to 14 hours a day managing a multiple recording process that involved 3 turntables directly connected to 3 computers, while a professional cassette player ran simultaneously. As the turntables spun, CDs were being ripped and 78 records and album covers photographed. Mary Ellen built a special unit mounted with a tripod and lights for photographing records and album covers.

"The Hallowed Halls"

All available wall space was used for selves. On the right is our 45 rpm record collection. Beyond it are some of our LP record albums. The top five shelves of the 45 record collection contain rare recordings from the early 1950s. The bottom shelf holds rare gospel records.

"The 78rpm Record Collection"

This is one of two specially built 78rpm record shelves. They sat opposite each other in a nook near the front door. Each record had been cleaned and stored in a collector's envelope inside of a plastic sleeve and then placed into a cardboard holder. The bulk of the 78rpm record collection consists of gospel records recorded between the 1905 and 1954.

"Sorting Cassette Tapes"

There were thousands of cassette tapes to sort. All of the tapes that needed to be digitized where loaded alphabetically into cassette racks stacked in the studio for Wave to draw from. The cassette player ran from 12 to 16 hours a day. The cassette collection consisted of transfers that I had made during the 1970s and 1980s of recordings borrowed from other collections. Also, I had amassed a rather large number of prerecorded cassettes of music that I was unable to find on records. These were mostly rare recordings of gospel music and Indian classical music. We also transferred to computer our collection of VHS tapes of live music events.

"Thousands of Cassette Tapes"

We had to identify and sort tapes from 13 cloth cassette cases that each contained 120 tapes. Additionally, we had at least twice that many wall-mount racks filled with tapes.

"Two turntables in action"

These two record turntables connected directly to the computer via its USB port. A stack of disk drives held the computerized recordings that had been recorded from the turntables.

"Thousands of CDs"

Here we see 2 of the 3 CD shelves that at one time had been completely filled with CDs. I had already ripped most of the CDs during the two years previous to the archiving project, bringing batches of CDs back to Nashville on various trips to Colorado. When CD processing was completed, the CDs were either sold, or packed away to return to storage.

"CDs of African American Gospel Music"

Here we see only a few of the CDs containing reissues of African American gospel music that had been transferred commercially from 78s and master tapes. These commercial CDs were an important source of recordings of rare records that would have been difficult to find otherwise.

"CDs of North Indian Classical Music"

These are CDs of rare recordings from India. This music had been previously issued on records, or was from the vaults of sources such as All India Radio.

"The Original Record Albums were on 78s"

Pictured here are American 78rpm record albums from the 1940s and 1950s. Each album contains multiple 78 records. Most are in mint condition.

"Early 45 rpm Record Albums"

When RCA Victor released the first 7" 45s in 1949, the company attempted to compete with Columbia Records for possession of the classical music market. Columbia had invented the 33-1/3rpm LP record, the superior format for classical music. Thus, the market was won by Columbia. During this period of competition, RCA Victor released classical music as box-set albums of 45rpm red-vinyl records. In this photo we see some of the 45rpm classical music albums that had been released on RCA Victor during the early years of 45rpm records. Note the size of some of the opera sets (Tosca and Aida). They contained many individual records, while an LP counterpart on 12" records would have contained only a few.


This is Wave Baker, who spent thousands of hours running the turntables, cameras and computers, getting some fresh air on the deck that was connected to the studio. I have yet to find a mistake anywhere in the digitized collection. We are blessed to have a friend like Wave.


Here am I, looking at a rare set of mint RCA 45s.

"Mary Ellen"

Mary Ellen is looking through one of the early Disney children's 45rpm record albums from 1950. In addition to various children's stories, music from the Disney movies was featured along with narration and a colorful story book that kids could read while listening to the records. RCA Victor 45rpm children's albums contained yellow vinyl records.

"Preparing Records for Storage"

At the end of our year-long archiving project, we began the process of boxing the collection to return it to storage. Cassettes, albums, 78s and CDS were are carefully sorted, labeled and boxed. This is our helper Heidi at work in the office of our leased home.

"Cassette Tapes from India"

This is one of the boxes. It contains colorful cassettes of classical music recorded in India. Every box headed for storage was numbered with a description of contents printed on the label attached to each box.

"Wrapping a stack of 78rpm Records"

Mary Ellen and Heidi are preparing batches of 78rpm records to be placed into storage cartons. 78rpm records break easily and must be carefully handled when they are being prepared for storage.

"Preparing 78s"

Heidi takes the stack of shrink-wrapped 78s in hand to place it inside of a storage box.


Stacks of 78rpm records were placed inside storage boxes and surrounded with styrofoam pellets.

"The Movers"

"Two Men and a Truck" helped us move the boxed and labeled record collection to a warehouse where the collection was to be stored.

"The Warehouse"

Boxes were transported to, and stacked in, a storage warehouse. Each box has been labeled and numbered, and its contents listed in a master document.

"Moving Out"

Our one-year lease is nearing its end and everything must go. Lydia is helping in the moving process. Wave's quarters, the office, a large sorting room, hallways, and the studio have to be clean and emptied.

"Empty Cassette Racks"

Dozens of wall-mountable cassette racks are now empty, their contents in storage. They will go to our friend Barky for use in his great gospel music store “Barky’s Spirituals” in downtown Richmond, Virginia. He helps keep traditional gospel alive by making available thousands of cassette tapes and CDs. These racks will continue their tradition of "saving the music" in Barky's store.

Barky's Spirituals

"Le Fin"

The house is now vacant and ready to turn back over to its owner.

Beginnings Journey Archiving Project Collection