“As long as they let me have a camera, I’ll grind it.” So says Orson Welles in this audio excerpt below from a recording made after the premiere of Welles’s landmark film Citizen Kane.
The recording, which exists on a lacquer disc in the Orson Welles Collection at the Lilly Library, was one of the first recordings digitally preserved by the Indiana Media Preservation and Access Center (IMPAC) start-up project. Indiana University Bloomington is home to at least 3 million sound and moving image recordings, photos, documents, and artifacts. Well over half a million of these special holdings are part of audio, video, and film collections, and a large number of them are one of a kind. The IMPAC project is a comprehensive effort to preserve IU Bloomingtonon’s vast audio, video, and film holdings, including rare gems such as this comedy bit about network censors confronting Welles about his heavy breathing on the air.
The audio portion of IU’s Orson Welles Collection contains numerous original recordings of Welles series such as Ceiling Unlimited, Hello Americans, This Is My Best, and various incarnations of the Orson Welles Almanac. Here’s Welles introducing the King Cole Trio singing “Hit That Jive Jack” on Welles’s Radio Almanac show around 1944:
Like many of the materials targeted by the IMPAC project, the Welles lacquers have serious preservation problems. The format itself is unstable, subject to catastrophic degradation processes that can leave a disc with a delaminated coating. The IMPAC group chose the Welles lacquers as to preserve early in their efforts, because the discs are actively degrading, at very high risk for loss of content, and are highly valuable for research, instruction, and entertainment.