Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Olivia Dill (2015)

Overlapping Disciplines: Using New Technology to Preserve and Create Access to Historic Ethnographic Field Recordings

Olivias project explores the intersection between technology, physics, anthropology, preservation and community need. The Phoebe A. Hearst Anthropology Museum, UC Berkeley Linguistics Department, the University Library and LBNL scientists are partnering to build a new lab on campus that will digitize 2700 recordings in the Anthropology museum collection. The collection consists largely of ethnographic field recordings made of Native Californians by UC Berkeley anthropologists in the early 1900s. This audio is of high cultural sensitivity and value to the present day members of the tribes recorded on them, but is difficult to access and in delicate preservation state due to the medium on which it was recorded, the wax cylinder. The preservation effort aims to improve access and preservation by employing a new technology created and designed at LBNL that uses 3D photographs of the cylinders to make digital versions of the audio without making contact with the surface. For her project, Olivia will expand on previous experience with this technology, by working within the project under the Primary Investigators to help get the lab up and running. Specifically, she will be assisting in calibration and assembly of equipment, and working to digitize a portion of the collection, document the initial workings of the lab and establish procedures with the aim of involving human need and community outreach in the data taking process.

Letters Home


Olivia graduated from Cal in December of 2014 as a double major in Art History and Physics. This project, along with her honors thesis in the Art History department, marks a foray into exploring the overlap between disparate disciplines and testing the waters for applying a physics toolkit and concerns in the sciences to problems and works in the humanities. When she is not working, or studying, Olivia enjoys baking, swimming watching movies and napping.

Back to Listings