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Archaeologist of Sound

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Science  20 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6066, pp. 278-280
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6066.278

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Summary

Sound historian Patrick Feaster has had first crack at helping bring back to life the lost sounds of 130 years ago. During a 2-month stint in the "nation's attic" at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, he turned up undreamed-of finds, including long-lost cylinders recorded at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris and what may be the first-ever sound recording on a disk. Archives and artifacts, however, are only part of Feaster's chosen work. Just as important, he says, is his mission of using modern technology to resurrect long-vanished voices and sounds—some of them never intended to be revived.

  • * Ron Cowen is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes about physics, astronomy, and the history of technology.