How to store/display 2551 cassette tapes?
January 12, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

My husband has come into 2551 Grateful Dead tapes. He is over the moon. I am less so because they're currently taking up space in 17 boxes in my finished basement and we have virtually no storage space. We would like to store them and ideally display them so he can see what he has. I would like them to be relatively compact and not look like junk. Any ideas?
posted by semacd to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about sliding shelves? I see them used in the kitchen between the fridge and the cabinet. Otherwise, the only thing I can think if is shallow built-in shelves on every wall of that basement.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:29 AM on January 12, 2013

Best answer: Get a service to digitize them all, then bin them?
posted by slkinsey at 9:30 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

storage unit. digitizer device. one box out of storage at a time. sell after digitizing.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2013

Best answer: In practical terms, he's going to be able to find most of these shows on If he's enough of a Deadhead to appreciate having 2,551 tapes, the tapes themselves will still have sentimental value, but if he has the audio as digital files there will be a big majority of these that can be stored in a way that doesn't allow for easy access.

In fact, it's unlikely that he'll need to digitize the big majority of them himself.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:35 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes on digitizing--make a comprehensive inventory. Photograph images of any liner material. This preserves the collection, a worthy undertaking if you LOVE the Dead.

You're talking about something like 94 feet of shelf space for storing the cassettes. This would make an awesome, if progressively non-functional wall display. The tapes will die a natural death in time as the oxide deteriorates. Some of them already may need careful handling.
posted by mule98J at 9:44 AM on January 12, 2013

I have not as many Dead tapes, but a lot! I would start by cataloging the shows. Make a list of the date, the location and if possible, the quality of the recording. You could then go on line and get complete set lists from each show. Then you can match up what you have versus what they played.

Then you could create a poster of the list and hang that with a few of the tapes on a shelf nearby for display while the rest are cataloged and stored in boxes by date.

Know that with the length of tapes and having to flip sides, that each show usually was on two cassettes. First set and second set. Many will have missing songs or will as my friends and I used to say, "Ends abruptly". Some tape traders would cut out drums --> space some would not. I had listened to certain tapes for years and was stunned to find out when I saw an actual set list and heard the digital version that the songs on my tape were not in the correct order. Someone along the way had changed them to get them to fit on a side without interrupting a song.

I would not digitize any of them. Between releases the Dead themselves make and ones you can get online, the bulk of them are already digitized and either free (like really free not stealing free) or remixed releases for purchase. has almost every show, but some are not available to download. Having said that, I have always been able to find a specific show to download or trade for eventually. I generally seek shows I have attended (got them all but three) or from specific time periods.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would go through the tapes with an eye for the most interesting inserts -- setlists, fan made art etc -- scan them in high resolution and use this to create a poster suitable for framing. Then I'd throw away/recycle the bulk of the tapes, because as said above, most are likely to be available online in better quality anyways. Convincing a nostalgic deadhead of this on the other hand...good luck!
posted by Lorin at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2013

You're talking about something like 94 feet of shelf space for storing the cassettes.

Which you could actually quite easily build with 3x1" planks. That way they'd actually only take up a wall or two in your basement. Regardless, the tapes are going to have to be catalogued, and if you're interested in preserving them, digitized, because they are going to deteriorate. JohnnyGunn may have the best idea: to duplicate your library with existing digital versions, and simply fill in the blanks from your own collection. You'd save masses of time and effort this way.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:17 AM on January 12, 2013

Best answer: I, too, have many, many Dead tapes, though not as many as your husband has come into. I can find any show I want online without too much hassle, but I am loathe to part with my tapes, which have tremendous sentimental value.

Our solution was to get a used, card catalog-sized "parts filing cabinet," like this one. The search term was "parts filing cabinet". Look for something on CL; we got ours for free from a friend who was closing his business, so it doesn't have to cost as much as the one I linked to. It makes it easy to manage and as unobtrusive as possible, given the number of tapes you are talking about. You'd obviously need more than one of these, perhaps more than two. Or three ;-)

Congrats to your husband, and my condolences on the partial loss of your finished basement.
posted by mosk at 10:25 AM on January 12, 2013

Best answer: I have this card catalog-style media cabinet in cherry and love it. Not sure how many you would need to hold 2551 cassettes.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:29 AM on January 12, 2013

My concert-taping friend in college kept his collection in Ikea storage containers under the bed. Whenever he wanted to listen to something he'd just slide them out and pop the top off.
posted by carsonb at 10:31 AM on January 12, 2013

You are talking about approximately 450 lbs worth of tapes (assuming 90 minute tape, case and liner card). It's borderline, but if he is not a chronic collector, I'd be tempted to just let it ride.

Offer him the chance to offload 450 lbs worth of something else?

But to answer the question, my wife has a big VHS tape collection (~300 lbs). We just double packed everything into small wooden (two shelf) bookcases in our supply room and called it a day. It's not pretty but it's better than having ragged boxes piled up in the corner.
posted by 99percentfake at 10:40 AM on January 12, 2013

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