Jamie Newhall is a recent addition to the board of African Sky, but he has been involved with the organization from the beginning. If you have ever attended one of the silent auctions, you’ve probably seen Jamie behind a camera.
Jamie is a Senior Multimedia Producer at the University of Akron and lives with his wife Amy Freels in Kent, Ohio. Recently, he earned the 2017 Merit Award from the Society of Ohio Archivists for his work with the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.
Jamie has worked with the Cummings Center over the years on various projects. They approached him for this particular project several years ago, after they were unable to find someone to repair a Pierce wire recorder. They had many wire recorder spools from the collection of Dr. David Boder, a psychologist who specialized in trauma. Boder had traveled to Europe after WWII to interview Holocaust survivors. They had no idea what was on the spools.
Jamie worked on the wire recorder in their collection, but was wary of damaging it, as it was one of the wire recorders that Boder had used. He decided to see if he could find another Pierce recorder to repair. It took about two years before his coworker, Litsa Varonis, spotted a nonworking one on EBay.
After working on the wire recorder for a while, Jamie realized that he was not going to be able to repair it. There were too many parts that were not easily replaceable or repairable. So he kept the original head and wire reel spindles and reengineered the rest.
The original drive—consisting of an AC motor, pulleys, belts, and rubber wheels—was replaced with a DC motor and single belt drive. This was more stable and allowed the speed to be regulated and adjusted as necessary. The vacuum tube-based amplifier was replaced with a modern operational amplifier integrated circuit. This allowed a line-level output directly into a computer for digitizing. The low noise operational amplifier and Mu Metal noise shielding greatly improved the sound quality over the original amplifier.
Jon Endres at the Cummings Center digitized the spools. And what he found was pretty amazing. He uncovered the voice of Guta Frank, singing two long-lost songs of the Holocaust. One was a song sung in the Krakow ghetto to inspire resistance against the Germans. The other was the official song of the labor camp that Frank had been held in. Its lyrics were known to scholars, but the melody had been thought lost.
For more on the project and to hear some of the songs, see: http://www.newsweek.com/unearthing-long-lost-singing-holocaust-survivor-552535