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Audio and Video Recordings

The images and sounds captured on video tapes and audio tapes do not last forever unless they are copied periodically. Take tapes in poor condition or obsolete formats to experts equipped to reformat or copy them.


  • Handle only the cassettes, never the tape surfaces.
  • Buy good quality audio and videotapes – they are thicker and stronger. Record videotapes at standard speed (SP rather than EP) for better images. Break off the record tab on videocassettes after you have made your recording to prevent accidentally recording over important moments.
  • Insert and eject tapes at blank points and pause them as little as possible. When you are done, rewind the tape to the beginning and remove it from the tape player right away.
  • Avoid playing valuable tapes on unfamiliar or suspect equipment.


  • Keep tapes away from sources of magnetic fields – electrical wiring, fluorescent lights, electric motors, and magnets.
  • Store reels and cassettes on end, like books, in labeled, hard-plastic containers. Keep them in cool, dry areas, away from dust and direct sunlight.


  • Make extra copies of valuable tapes. Store them with the master copy in a safe-deposit box, or with a friend or relative.
  • Read the manuals for your audiocassette player and VCR to learn about proper operation and routine maintenance. Clean the recording heads on schedule, and use dust covers on your equipment.
  • Consider digitizing your audio and video recordings for easier access.
    • Keep your original tapes and recordings as well as your digital copies.
    • In addition to having your vendor create a CD or DVD that you can play on a standard CD or DVD player, also request that the digital files be placed on a "data CD" or "data DVD."  In the future, it will be easier to transfer files stored on these "data discs" onto new hardware and software.
    • See Digital Media for information about caring for your digital copies.
    • If you have audio or video recordings of musical performances or other artistic activities, please contact the State Archives for additional advice.