Edison died two years later. The recordings were one of the few occasions in which Edison's voice was ever recorded and possibly the last such recording every made of his voice. The recordings remained untouched for eighty years until archivist Chris Hunter grew curious about 13 undocumented film canisters tucked away on a bottom shelf among 5 million items in the basement archives of the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium. He enlisted the help of John Schneiter, a former GE engineer and holder of 16 patents, who, in turn, asked for help from his old co-worker, Russ DeMuth, an engineer at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna.
The trio did something remarkable: they resurrected the voice of the ailing 82-year-old Thomas Edison.
The technology used to record Edson's voice no longer exists. The engineers had to create digital hardware without plans or blueprints to play the analog recordings made eighty years earlier. Using an assortment of parts purchased on eBay and elsewhere, DeMuth cobbled together a machine that used a photo transistor in place of a photoelectric cell that read the recordings originally.
You can read more about their efforts at: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=942480
To hear Edison's voice as recorded that evening, go to the newspaper article at http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=942480 and look in the upper left corner. Click on "Hear the audio" and you will hear Edison's voice as he delivers his brief speech.
My thanks to Pierre Clouthier for telling me about this story.