The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (Paradisec) is a cross-institutional project that supports work on endangered languages and cultures of the Pacific and the region around Australia. They digitise reel-to-reel field tapes, have a mass data store and use international standards for metadata description. Paradisec is part of the worldwide community of language archives (Delaman and the Open Language Archives Community). Paradisec's main motivation is to ensure that unique recordings of small languages are themselves preserved for the future, and that researchers consider the future accessibility to their materials from other researchers, community members, or anyone who has an interest in such materials.
As the number of small languages in the world is reduced by many factors (urbanization, colonial policies, the speakers' desire to learn languages which give access to resources), the tapes which may be their only record become increasingly more valuable. Too many of these recordings are held in poor conditions and are not described in a public catalog. PARADISEC provides the infrastructure to deposit and locate these recordings.
The collection currently contains roughly 7,800 hours of archived audio materials representing more than 1,100 languages from around 100 countries. This is supplemented by significant numbers of images, videos and text objects. Altogether, the archive contains some 33.5 terabytes of data in more than 163,021 individual files (correct at September 2017).
The database of archived materials can be freely searched via the Open Languages Archives Community. Direct access to archived recordings requires registration and sometimes needs permission as specified by the depositor.
For the secure archival of audio files complete with metadata headers, PARADISEC uses the Quadriga system, developed by Cube-Tec, which conforms to the BWF specifications of the European Broadcast Union (EBU). BWF files are archived with a digitally sealed 'header' comprising metadata exported from the Paradisec catalog. This sealed header also acts as a security device and prevents the archived BWF from any unauthorised edits, thus preserving the audio signal for posterity. It is also standard practice to produce smaller, more easily transported mp3 copies of each BWF, for the purpose of access. These too, are archived with the master BWF copies.
A large part of the project is the digitisation of valuable analogue recordings of languages and cultures from the Pacific region that will otherwise deteriorate and become unreadable. Researchers whose materials are represented in these collections include Arthur Capell, Stephen Wurm, Clemens Voorhoeve and Terry Crowley. These recordings may be stored on a variety of formats, but are mainly cassette tapes and reel-to-reel tapes.
Analogue recordings are digitised at the highest possible fidelity to ensure high-quality digital files result. The current international archive standard for PCM audio files is 24-bit resolution and a sample rate of 96 kHz. PARADISEC employs a standard of 24-bit resolution and 96 kHz sample rate to ensure highest practicable fidelity digital copies are produced.
Paradisec is funded by a consortium of four Australian universities, including the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne and the Australian National University, as well as the Australian Research Council and Grangenet. Paradisec's main office and primary ingestion stations are located at the University of Sydney in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and a secondary office, comprising further ingestion stations, is situated at the University of Melbourne. The archive is currently headed by Linda Barwick and Nicholas Thieberger.