British Library project set to preserve nation’s sound heritage

The British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom, is embarking on a project to create a national network of 10 sound preservation centers aimed at preserving nearly a half-million rare and unique recordings threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that no longer can be played.

Regional libraries, archives, museums and universities throughout the UK will be part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

Recordings in the British Library’s audio collections include an astonishing array of sounds:  oral histories from World Wars I and II, Cornish brass bands, local dialect from UK regions, Welsh, Irish and Scottish traditional music, pirate radio recordings and sounds of rare and extinct wildlife species.

“These are just a few of the culturally significant recordings that shed light on the past and the world we live in, providing a reminder that history is recorded in many forms,” the British Library said in a statement announcing the preservation and access project.

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage will include creation of a website through which listeners can explore many of the recordings. The British Library-hosted site is expected to be in operation in 2019.

The heritage project is part of Save Our Sounds, a key program of the British Library, which is investing in new technology to ensure long-term preservation of UK recordings and broadcast so they will be available to future generations for research and pleasure.

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage has total project funding worth roughly $23.6 million, of which about half comes from a grant from the UK’s National Lottery.

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