Fuller Sonoband Recordings

Regenstein Pacific Collection Intern Katie Good highlights the history and importance of the Fuller Collection and sonobands (© 2008, Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum)

In 1958, Roland Force made a journey to London with his wife Maryanne (a respected anthropologist in her own right,) to sit down with Fuller and discuss the artifacts he was giving to the museum.  He brought with him a Walkie Record-All, the cutting edge of portable recording technology at the time.  

Every day from noon until three o’clock in the morning, the two men sat down and went through each object in the collection, listing off the date, the type of object, giving a description, telling who sold it to whom, and occasionally telling an anecdote or bickering about provenance.

 

Their 160 hours of commentary were recorded on plastic belts called sonobands, a medium that would become obsolete only a few years later. Typed transcripts of their conversations were made from these recordings by Maryanne Force.  

 

These transcripts were ultimately used to help publish a catalog entitled The Fuller Collection of Pacific Artifacts. The purpose of this catalog was “to give the collection the prominence it deserves and to pay tribute to the collector” (Force and Force 1971: vii). 

 

The sonobands themselves were then packed away in a small cardboard box, and stored in the Archives of the Field Museum for more than forty years.

 

However, in 2003, the Field Museum hired The Cutting Corporation, a firm in Bethesda, Maryland. As specialists in the preservation of archival audio material, they could transfer the sonoband recordings to digital format.  

 

We carefully packed and shipped off the approximately 150 sonobands along with the two Walkie Record-All machines that Roland Force had used back in 1958. 

 

The Cutting Corporation was able to capture the old analog sonoband recordings in WAV format so they can now be heard for many generations to come. 

produced, directed, and narrated by Heather Radke, 2008 Regenstein Pacific Intern

Background image: Port Moresby by Hitchster. CC BY 2.0 / cropped and desaturated from original

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