IRENE (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, etc.) is a new technological development that will help in the preservation of millions of sound recordings that are currently being lost because of lack of usable equipment to play them on, and because the audio recordings are becoming increasingly frail.

IRENE was developed by scientist Carl Haber, and other scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Basically it works by creating a digital audio file from an analog information in a disk’s groves without ever touching the record. This is done by using a tool called the Smart Scope, which is basically a high-resolution digital camera attached to a microscope. IRENE therefore can extract sounds from material that was previously too fragile to play. It can also “remove” scratches and “mend” broken phonograph records. The final product will play in near-real time. There is also discussion on developing a new device called the “Confocal Scanning Probe” which would be able to create sound file from three-dimensional items such as wax cylinders.

IRENE has been in use at the Library of Congress since last year, where many are hopefully that this new technology will help save millions of old sound recordings that the library holds, but which are too frail to handle.

You can read more about IRENE form the Library of Congress’ blog, from a story that aired on NPR this morning, and from another story on ACFNewsource.