Jazz originated and developed together with the art and technology of sound recording. Although digital technology is now taken for granted, generations of jazz lovers were brought up on 78 and 33 rpm records, that still arouse much curiosity.
To provide visitors with the "physical" experience of listening to recordings on obsolete supports, the Centre conserves historical models of acoustic record players and Edison cylinders, the first forms of sound recording, that many people today have never seen.
For the purposes of conservation, instruments that can read any support, analogue or digital, are used and are part of the vast collection: a Garrard 401 turntable with SME arm and Shure head for 78 rpm, a Linn Sondek for 33/45 rpm, a Nakamichi Dragon with auto-azimuth for cassettes, a tape recorder, and not only VHS and beta readers for videos but also a Laserdisc reader, a high-performance digital format made obsolete by the advent of DVDs. Laserdiscs do not use digital compression and are in high demand among cinema enthusiasts. Recordings originally on perishable supports such as vinyl and 78 rpm can, if necessary, be transferred to digital supports, allowing musicologists and students enrolled in courses of Siena Jazz to study them without damaging the priceless originals.
The Centre has a listening booth for musicologists where visitors can listen to CD versions of all the material in the collections, using digital editing software, if desired, to listen to a single part of a piece, slowing the speed or amplifying a detail.
As a member of the International Association of Sound Archives (IASA), Siena Jazz takes part in international activities of the association, collecting a great amount of information and taking advantage of the experience of major international archives to maintain conservation and classification standards and to activate collaborations and exchanges with other European organizations in the sector. Classification of recordings is a major daily task of archive collaborators: new recordings, more than 1000 per year, are inventoried and classified so that the information regarding all LP, CD, 45 rpm and 10" are available online and indexed not only by title and leader but also with all musicians involved in each piece, authors, places and dates of recording. The same is done for unpublished material: live concerts recorded by Siena Jazz, donations by musicians and enthusiasts, demonstrations and preparatory material.
To hear recordings already available on CD, it is generally sufficient to come to the Centre during opening hours, whereas for recordings stored on analogue supports an appointment is necessary.