St. Luke’s Methodist Sound Collection
A Case Study in Palmitic Acid
On Monday, April 22, 1889, the Unassigned Lands in Indian Territory were opened to settlers. That following Sunday, April 28, 1889, a Methodist minister gathered a group at a shelter named "Tabernacle Church," located in a vacant lot in what would become Oklahoma City. Within one month the congregation totaled 501 and the St. Luke's United Methodist Church has thrived since those early beginnings.
The OHS has partnered with the church to preserve their rich history. The research division digitized 37 sixteen-inch lacquer discs which date from 1946 to 1961, and three wire recordings from the same time period. The bulk of the broadcasts at St. Luke's were conducted by KTOK (1000 AM) radio which has served the Oklahoma City area since 1927. These recordings provide a history of church campaigns, sermons, conversations, and music.
The lacquer transcription discs develop a coating of a white waxy or greasy substance over time, which in its early stages looks like a fine white dust or powder. This substance is palmitic acid and stearic acid. The early dust or powder stage of palmitic acid formation is sometimes mistaken for mold, but under the microscope one can clearly distinguish the difference. Palmitic acid causes permanent damage to recorded sound and can lead to the absolute loss of the audio. For a glimpse at the preservation and digitization processes of these recordings visit the OHS audio department YouTube channel or watch below.
JA Pryse, Digital Archivist