January 14, 2015 by Catherine Dhanjal
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 understand the risks facing the UK’s sound collections and to map the scale of the problem, the British Library is initiating a project to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a directory of sound collections in the UK. By telling us what you have, we can help plan for their preservation, for future generations.
Our aim is to be comprehensive; to search out sounds that exist in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, schools and colleges, charities, societies, businesses and in your homes. 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: www.bl.uk/projects/uk-sound-directory
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