Every year on 27 October, audiovisual archives around the world celebrate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage with activities and  events that not only highlight the vulnerability of this heritage, but celebrate the often unheralded yet essential work they do to protect it.

Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA)

This year, in commemoration of UNESCO World Day for AV Heritage, MSU Libraries’ Media Preservation unit is proud to present a virtual “media format petting zoo”—that is, a collection of representative media items from across the 20th century.

From top to bottom, left to right:


Important dates
  • Popular from the 1960s to the 1980s
  • 1978 was the peak year for 8-track sales
Format features
  • 8-track player units popular in automobiles; often offered in combination with an AM radio
  • Home players allowed consumers to share music between automobiles and home units
  • Convenient and portable format
  • Basis for the first karaoke machine (called the Juke-8)

VHS Tapes

Important dates
  • First released in 1976
  • While there was a format war between VHS tapes and Betamax tapes, VHS tapes dominated 60% of the North American market by 1980
Format features
  • Though Betamax cassettes were smaller and more portable, the VHS format had much more possible recording time; it was popular for feature-length films
  • VHS-C (VHS Compact) was initially developed for portable VCRs and eventually found success in camcorders 
  • Widely used to bootleg commercial content 

Wire Recordings

Important dates
  • First magnetic recording technology, invented in 1898 by Valdemar Poulsen
  • Replaced by magnetic tape in the 1950s
Format features
  • The principles and electronics involved are nearly identical to those of magnetic tape; magnetic tape was easier to re-record, though
  • A wire recording lasting approximately one hour would consist of a spool of wire 7,200 feet in length

Quadruplex (2-Inch Quad) Open-Reel Video Tape

Important dates
  • Used from 1956-early to 1980s
  • First commercial video tape format released by Ampex in 1956
Format features
  • Allowed for an easier recording, playback and sharing of broadcast content. Tapes were routinely mailed (in their cases) across time zones to other television stations in order to share content
  • Quadruplex uses four recording and playback heads which record content in stripes on the tape at high speeds, thus the quad in the name


Important dates
  • Used from 1988-early 2000
  • Created the late 1980s and introduced by Ampex at the National Association of Broadcasters trade show
Fun facts
  • Digital video tape used by broadcasters introduced by Ampex
  • Early episodes of South Park were shipped, for airing, to Comedy Central on D2 


Important dates

Used from 1995 to late 2000s

Format features
  • Digital video cassette used primarily for consumer camcorders, but did have some professional use
  • Smallest tape in the DV family, fitting in the palm of adult-sized hand
  • Major motion pictures like Dancer in the Dark and Bamboozled and the TV show Jackass had sections shot on MiniDV

16mm Film

Important dates

Introduced in 1923 by Eastman Kodak

Format features
  • Most 16mm film has an acetate base (cellulose triacetate, or diacetate for much older film)
  • Acetate film is commonly called “safety” film, as it does not have the combustible qualities found in nitrate film
  • Badly faded color film can be restored to full color using digital techniques during digitization

Grooved Cylinders

Important dates
  • Wax grooved cylinders: commercially available from the late 1880s up through the late 1920s
  • Plastic grooved cylinders: in use from circa 1900 through the late 1920s
  • The Archeophone, a device developed in France in 1998, is in widespread use for the playback and digitization of wax cylinders!
Format features
  • Also known as “phonograph cylinders”, this grooved audio format is the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound
  • Consists of a mechanical grooved cylinder made of soft wax, usually ivory, cream, or brown in color
  • Consists of a mechanical grooved cylinder made of soft wax, usually ivory, cream, or brown in color (wax), or cellulose nitrate plastic, usually black, blue, or purple in color (plastic)

Additionally, we are proud to highlight a gem of the University Archives audiovisual collection—a 1959 short film on film splicing. At our October 26th pop-up exhibit sponsored by MSU Special Collections, we will be running a screening of this clip, which will be accompanied by a film splicing demonstration by our resident audiovisual archivist, Matthew Wilcox. However, if you’re participating in World Day for AV Heritage from home, watch and learn from this highlight from our collections.