British Library launches sound preservation project to rescue half a million recordings



Unlocking our Sound Heritage will save music, pirate radio, spoken word and field recordings from physical decay.

The British Library is launching a national preservation network to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings threatened by physical degradation or those stored on now defunct formats.

The Unlocking our Sound Heritage project will focus on preserving a huge range of the UK’s diverse musical and recorded output, from traditional, pop and world music, and radio broadcasts to drama and literature readings, oral histories, and wildlife sounds from around the country.

The breadth of intended coverage is striking, capturing oral histories from World War One and Two alongside Cornish brass bands, pirate radio recordings, iconic performances at the National Theatre, and local dialects from across the UK. It will showcase the stories of migrant and marginalised societies alongside notable figures, unlocking a treasure trove of music and cultural history.

Creating a nationwide network of 10 preservation centres, The British Library will archive a selection of the recordings on a searchable Unlocking our Sound Heritage website, due for completion in 2019 and available to the public.

Having secured a significant National Lottery grant to reach the £18.8 million funding required to launch the project, Chief Executive of the British Library Roly Keating said: “The British Library is the home of the nation’s sound archive, and we are delighted that this funding will help us preserve our audio heritage for people to explore and enjoy.”

Find out more from The British Library’s Save Our Sounds project.

Photos courtesy of The British Library.

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