Wanting to preserve the past, music masters edition

A long piece details the calamitous fire that hit an important vault of music at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 1, 2008:

Eventually the flames reached a 22,320-square-foot warehouse that sat near the King Kong Encounter. The warehouse was nondescript, a hulking edifice of corrugated metal, but it was one of the most important buildings on the 400-acre lot. Its official name was Building 6197. To backlot workers, it was known as the video vault…

The scope of this calamity is laid out in litigation and company documents, thousands of pages of depositions and internal UMG files that I obtained while researching this article. UMG’s accounting of its losses, detailed in a March 2009 document marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” put the number of “assets destroyed” at 118,230. Randy Aronson considers that estimate low: The real number, he surmises, was “in the 175,000 range.” If you extrapolate from either figure, tallying songs on album and singles masters, the number of destroyed recordings stretches into the hundreds of thousands. In another confidential report, issued later in 2009, UMG asserted that “an estimated 500K song titles” were lost…

The vault fire was not, as UMG suggested, a minor mishap, a matter of a few tapes stuck in a musty warehouse. It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business. UMG’s internal assessment of the event stands in contrast to its public statements. In a document prepared for a March 2009 “Vault Loss Meeting,” the company described the damage in apocalyptic terms. “The West Coast Vault perished, in its entirety,” the document read. “Lost in the fire was, undoubtedly, a huge musical heritage.”…

Today several of the company’s nearly 1,500 facilities are devoted to entertainment assets. Warner Music Group stores hundreds of thousands of master recordings in Iron Mountain’s Southern California facilities, and nearly all of Sony Music Entertainment’s United States masters holdings — more than a million recordings — are reportedly kept in Iron Mountain warehouses in Rosendale, N.Y. The Boyers, Pa., facility where UMG keeps most of its United States masters is a 1.7-million-square-foot former limestone mine. The facility offers optimal archive conditions, climate control and armed guards.

The boom in cultural products in the last 100 years or so with the rise of mass media and new technologies presents unique challenges for corporations, the public, and preservationists. How should all of this material be preserved? The amount of space needed for storage could be huge – even for digital files (see the Library of Congress efforts to collect tweets). Keeping all of that material safe from fire, temperature changes, water damage, and other forces is costly and requires constant vigilance. Technology changes and renders prior productions difficult to utilize. There may need to be an obvious payoff for whoever is storing this material in order to go through all the effort.

One solution to all of this is to get mediocre copies of things. The example at the end suggests music listeners can access so much through streaming services. One expert profiled in the story describes it this way: “The music sounds like it was mastered in a Coke can,” he says. “But on long drives, it’s the best.”” I suppose it could be argued that having access to music and films and other items is worth it, even if the quality is not that great.

But a bigger question is this: just how much material is worth saving? What will people in the future want to look back on? Will future people see big benefits from the most preserved material ever compiled by previous generations? How will future preservationists, historians, and others construct cultural narratives about life today based on so much material (both tremendously popular and not)?

Reconfiguring your house to store your stuff

A trickle-down effect of American consumerism includes finding space to store all that stuff:

Take closet space — that holy grail of home must-haves — as an example. Says Brininstool, “Fifteen years ago, it was about how many linear feet of closets you had. Now it’s economics and people are adapting more to scaling down. So with closets today, it’s more specifically designed for built-in drawers and shelves — specific places for specific things.”

On the kitchen side, Brininstool says, “It so much reflects where the culture is with the artisanal, farm-to-table movement. People now shop more selectively for their food and they are willing to shop more often. So the idea of having a lot of kitchen square footage for groceries that you’re not sure when you’re going to consume them is going away.”…

Abels says that “people are looking for creative ways to utilize their storage,” and notes that Pinterest boards devoted to inventive storage ideas abound. She also says that, for multiunit buildings, there is a growing trend to have “bedroom-sized storage lockers” in common areas that can also serve as workrooms. “One of my next-door neighbors has her kiln down there.”…

So often, decisions about stuff come down to creating space for how you actually live, rather than how you think you should live.

Perhaps we should view the homes of today as giant storage units? Many people may want to maximize their storage space rather than just pile up a bunch of things in a room. A decluttered home and/or efficient use of space might say something important about the resident. Yet, it is one thing to purchase a home for its primary social spaces and another because it has sufficient storage space for a lot of consumer goods. I imagine we’ll see even better designed storage spaces – whether specialty rooms or unique storage options like the movable walls already found in some micro-apartments – in the future.

The Not So Big House is also featured in this article. On one hand, the home is supposed to be superior because instead of having super-sized yet sterile spaces, it has customized settings. On the other hand, I hadn’t previously considered that the Not So Big House can allow an owner to have just as much stuff but simply tidily organized.

Crossword puzzle answer for “McMansion’s storage”?

I ran across this interesting crossword puzzle clue: McMansion’s storage.

The supposed answer: ThreeCarGarage.

That is a rather long answer for a crossword clue. There also could also be other possible answers. WalkinClosets? ExtraRooms? SecondGreatRoom? For those McMansions with oversized garages, just how many people use that for their main source of storage? Since one of the key features of a McMansion is its large square footage, I imagine there is plenty of storage space available elsewhere.

Just a note on how many American homes have three-car garages. This is from the Census Bureau regarding new homes in 2012:

Of the 368,000 single-family homes sold in 2012…259,000 had 2-car garages, whereas 76,000 had garages for three cars or more.

This is a slight uptick from 2009 new homes:

17% of new single-family homes sold in the U.S. had a 3-or-more-car garage. In the Midwest 34% of the new homes sold had a 3-or-more car garage.

This is probably due to more of the new housing market catering to wealthier buyers.

Finding new ways to store your bike in the city

With space at a premium in many cities, some people have developed innovative ways to store bicycles:

Fortunately some cities have responded to the challenge with exceptional ingenuity. Japanese engineers have developed a multi-level “cycle tree” — perhaps more appropriately named a “cycle cave” — that stores bikes in an elaborate underground system. Riders feed their bike into a mechanized rut that sends it down into a designated spot, retrieving the bike later with a simple swipe of a card. One “cycle tree” in Tokyo, considered the world’s largest, holds some 6,500 bikes.

A truer bike tree can be found in Geneva, where riders can watch their bike raised high above the hands of thieves while remaining protected from the elements. In that same anti-theft vein, German designers have created a bike lock with inline wheels and a small motor that enables riders to power their bikes high up a street pole. Seoul, Korea, is working toward a system of bike hangers that cling to the site of residential buildings; riders can park for just $15 a year, though they have to pedal to retrieve their bike. A slightly less advanced version of this concept has been implemented already by some riders in the East Village…

Those who don’t mind cramming their bikes into their apartments have a growing number of options as well. These range from basic wooden wall mounts to simple, cheap wall hooks to stylish, colorful hanging nodes to elegant bike storage furniture that, in the words of Freshome, “unite cycling culture with interior design.” A Times slideshow from a few years back showcases some other space-saving solutions. These include a wall device that lifts bikes off the ground with a hydraulic spring, a freestanding rack made of oak, an incredibly compact and sleek wall hook, and a similar structure that, while bulkier, provides space for helmets and other equipment.

Many city dwellers, conscious of their limited apartment space, are now looking for bike storage devices that serve a double purpose. Knife & Saw recently introduced a hanging bike shelf that also acts as a small bookshelf. Less costly variations are starting to appear as well. Those with a balcony might consider a bike-shelf-birdhouse combination that holds a helmet as easily as it holds a helmetshrike. The most innovative, though perhaps also the least comfortable, design goes to Store Muu Design Studio, which conceived a sort of hybrid bike-desk, wherein the bike seat doubles as the office chair.

Some fascinating pictures to look at. You can even find out a little more about what happened to the foldable bicycle.