Belfer Offers Historic Cylinder Sound Recordings on Web

February 24, 2009

Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection Offers Historic Cylinder Sound Recordings on the Web

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Syracuse University Library’s Belfer Audio Archive now offers Web access to its collection of cylinder sound recordings. Cylinders were the earliest form of commercially produced sound recordings, popular from the late 1880s through the 1920s. Belfer’s collection of 22,000 cylinders represents 12,000 unique titles and is the largest of any private institution in North America. The collection includes a wide range of performances, including orchestral, vocal, folk and dance music, as well as spoken word such as speeches, poetry and dramatic readings.

The Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection, found at, now contains about 300 items and will eventually include 6,000 cylinder recordings that have not been available on the Internet before. Recordings can be browsed by subject and genre. Search options include title, performer, composer, time period, label and others.

Recordings are provided in both MP3 and WAV formats. The WAV files are larger in size and represent the sound of the original recording as it was played. The MP3s are smaller and have had extraneous sounds removed.

The Belfer Cylinders Digital Connection project was partially funded by a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The library welcomes additional financial contributions to support the cylinder digitization project, as well as donations of cylinders.

Currently the fourth-largest sound archive in the country, the Belfer Archive holds more than 340,000 items in a climate-controlled facility on campus. With funding provided by Diane and Arthur B. Belfer and the Jon Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive was the first building in the world designed and constructed specifically for the preservation of recorded sound collections.