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28,000 Audiotapes!

By Elizabeth Lincoln

Since 2004, all Minnesota House and Senate hearings and floor debates have been digitally recorded and archived.  Researching legislation prior to 2004 requires a trip to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (LRL) or to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)--or both--to listen to audiotapes.

But soon that will change!  In 2017, the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library received an appropriation to digitize 28,000 tapes of legislative committee hearings and floor debates. The Library is seeking proposals by July 14, 2017 for the digitization of the audiotape collection. Further details are available in the request for proposal.

The House and Senate began recording all committee hearings and floor sessions in the mid-1970s.  The tapes were collected by LRL and, when space became an issue, older tapes were gradually transferred to MHS.  By the early 1990s many of the tapes were deteriorating and a number of years of tapes were destroyed.  The Minnesota Historical Society can no longer accommodate the 18,000 tapes currently housed there and began making plans several years ago to return the tapes to the Legislative Reference Library.  The 2017 appropriation allows the digitization of all existing legislative hearing and floor debate tapes.  Digitization of these auditotapes will make the primary records of the Legislature accessible to anyone at any time and preserves these recordings into the future.