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Radio recordings

The British Library Sound Archive provides access to one of the world's most extensive and wide-ranging collections of radio recordings.

In addition to thousands of off-air recordings made by the Archive between 1963 and 2000, much more has been amassed through donations from radio stations, production companies, individual producers, performers, subject specialists and collectors. The Library's Listening and Viewing Service currently provides the only public point of on-request access to the vast collections of the BBC Sound Archive and BBC Radio International (formerly BBC Transcription Services).

The scope of the material ranges from the 1920s to the present and embraces every genre, from music, drama and the arts to news, current affairs and experimental community radio. Although British broadcasting, particularly the national stations of the BBC, is most strongly represented, the collection embraces regional, local and independent radio programming, and a growing selection of material from overseas. Taken together, it constitute a body of cultural history which sheds light on the evolution of national tastes, interests and values, and reflects our responses and attitudes to many of the key social, cultural and historical developments of the last nine decades.

Collection strengths include:

More detailed information on the radio collections, subject content, access and advice for researchers is available on request.

Accessing the collection

To access sound and moving image material:

  • Use the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue to search for recordings.
  • The Listening and Viewing Service provides free public access to the Sound Archive's collections of recorded sound and video in St Pancras. Sound recordings can be accessed in Boston Spa also.
  • The Sound Archive Information Service is based in Humanities - floor 2 in St Pancras where books, discographies, periodicals and magazines are available on open access.
  • Many sound recordings have been digitised and are presented on the British Library Sounds website. A large number of the recordings are freely available for listening online though some are restricted to users in accredited Higher Education establishments.
  • The Transcription Service can provide copies of recordings once the appropriate copyright has been cleared.

Further information

Paul Wilson
Curator, Radio
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7446
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441