Our sound collections feature over 1 million discs, 185,000 tapes, and many other sound and video recordings from all over the world.

Collection guides

Listening and Viewing Service box

Listening and Viewing Service

The Listening and Viewing Service provides free onsite public access to our collection of recorded sound and video.

Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.

We can also provide access to archived BBC Radio broadcasts.

Mon - Thu: 10.00 - 20.00
Fri - Sat: 10.00 - 17.00
Sun and English Public Holidays: closed

You will need a Reader Pass. Over 200,000 digital tracks are available for instant access without an appointment, though you may have to make an appointment to listen to some sounds.

T: +44 (0)20 7412 7418
F: +44 (0)20 7412 7441

British Library Sounds offers free online access to 80,000 selections from the Library’s extensive collections of unique sound recordings.

Blog posts

Black History Month – Cullen Maiden

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cullen Maiden in performance at Gray Chapel, Ohio Wesleyan University Photo: Cullen Maiden collection British Library In March 2015 I acquired for the British Library the archive of singer Cullen Maiden from his widow Christine Hall-Maiden. In 1964 she was...

Recording of the Week: Temporary Home

Monday, October 24, 2016

This week's selection comes from Andrea Zarza Canova, Curator of World and Traditional Music. This recording of Tristan de Cunha islander Mary Swain was made by Peter Kennedy and Maud Karpeles in Calshot, Hampshire, in August 1962. Tristan de Cunha...

Treasures of the Black Country

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator of Spoken English writes: We were delighted recently to welcome acclaimed novelist, scriptwriter and actor, Meera Syal, to the Library to explore the accents and dialects of the Black Country for a forthcoming episode of Treasures...

Remembering Aberfan 50 years on

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Having grown up 20 miles south of the village, the name ‘Aberfan’ and the tragedy that bestowed this coalmining community in the south Wales valleys fifty years ago this Friday have long been familiar to me. Before 1966, Aberfan was...

More blog posts


Save our Sounds

Save our Sounds is our programme to preserve the nation’s sound heritage

Directory of UK Sound Collections

The British Library has created a directory of UK sound collections

Edison Fellowships

We offer fellowships to encourage the study of classical music sound recordings

Opening Up Speech Archives

This AHRC-funded project studied the use of speech recognition technologies

All projects

Library experts

Rob Perks

Lead Curator, Oral History & Director of National Life Stories

Jonnie Robinson

Lead Curator, Spoken English

Mary Stewart

Curator, Oral History, and Deputy Director of National Life Stories

Stephen Cleary

Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings

More staff members

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Association of Independent Music

The collective voice of the UK's independent music industry

British Phonographic Industry

Represents the UK’s major record companies and more than 300 independents


International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives

International Bioacoustics Council

Responsible for the organisation of international conferences on bioacoustics

Oral History Society

Dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral history

Wildlife Sound Recording Society

International society dedicated to recording the sounds of the natural world


british bird sounds

British Bird: Sounds on CD

A collection of fascinating British bird sounds can be found on this CD, a perfect gift or reference point for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers.


british poets

British Poets: The Spoken Word

30 poets are included, each reading from their own work, often with their own spoken introductions.


writing life

The Writing Life: Authors Speak

British authors as you've never heard them before feature in this widely acclaimed set of two CDs.