news category General News created 17 February 2015

The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections

Biritish Library logoYou may have heard that in January of this year, the British Library launched a new programme titled Save our Sounds.

Amongst the literary treasures held in the basements of the British Library sits an extraordinary collection of sounds. From recordings of extinct species, voices from the past, to music across all genres, the British Library’s sound archive is held on more than 1.5 million physical items, just waiting to be heard.

But all of these recordings, from those made on the earliest wax cylinders to contemporary CD-Rs, face a real and immediate threat from the combination of physical degradation and the disappearance of the technologies that support physical media.

Professional consensus is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save the UK’s sound collections. Without taking steps to preserve these recordings now, they will be lost.

To help us understand the breadth of the nation’s recorded heritage and the risks it faces, we are undertaking a project to create a Directory of UK Sound Collections. By gathering information about sound collections in the UK, we can understand more about the risks they face, and this will help us plan for their preservation, for future generations.

One of the key areas that we’d like love to see more information from is the music industry; specifically musicians and songwriters, producers and engineers, studio and labels, or indeed anyone who may have recordings in their collections. And we’re not just interested in large collections: a single item might be just as important as a whole archive.

So if you think you might have a rare or unique collection of sounds, or just a recording that should be preserved, let us know!

The census is live now and will run until the end of March 2015. You can read more about the project, and send us information about your collections here:

The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections is one of the first steps in our Save our Sounds programme; one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future.

You can follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

Adam Tovell

Researcher, National Audit of Sound Collections

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