Unlocking our Sound Heritage

Save our Sounds Acetate Discs

Major National Lottery funding boost to preserve nearly half a million at risk recordings from around the UK

The British Library is today launching Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, a major preservation and access project which has received a £9.5m National Lottery grant. This builds on the generous support of other donors and funders, meaning that the total project funding of £18.8 million is now in place. The funding will enable the formation of the first ever national network of ten sound preservation centres. This network will now come together with the British Library to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings that are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played.  

These recordings tell a rich story of the UK’s diverse history through traditional, pop and world music, drama and literature readings, oral history, regional radio, dialect, and wildlife sounds from around the country.  Oral histories from World War One and Two, Cornish brass bands, local dialect from the UK regions, Welsh, Irish and Scottish traditional music, pirate radio recordings, iconic performances at the National Theatre, music from around the world, sounds of rare and extinct 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 stories of communities, migrant workers and marginalised groups will be told alongside those of notable historical figures, local histories against the national and international; sounds, memories, music and traditions in all their manifold wealth.

The funding will allow the British Library to lead this major preservation project, sharing skills and supporting ten centres across the UK in order to preserve their own unique and rare regional sounds and make them more accessible to the public. The British Library and its ten partners will invest in a schedule of public engagement activities, including well-being workshops, learning events for families, and tours, events and exhibitions.

The ten centres who will soon begin work on preserving their regional sounds are: National Museums Northern Ireland, Archives + with Manchester City Council, Norfolk Record Office, National Library of Scotland, University of Leicester, The Keep in Brighton with the University of Sussex, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, National Library of Wales, London Metropolitan Archives, and Bristol Culture.

A vital element of Unlocking our Sound Heritage will be a website hosted by the British Library, allowing listeners to explore a wide selection of recordings. This website is scheduled to go live in 2019.

Unlocking our Sound Heritage forms part of a core British Library programme, Save Our Sounds, which pledges to preserve the nation’s sound heritage. The National Lottery grant will enable the British Library to achieve key aims of its ambitious Save Our Sounds programme by preserving the nation’s most at risk sounds and, with the appropriate licences and permissions, delivering online resources and a vibrant programme of activities across the UK, connecting people with their audio heritage. Save Our Sounds is also investing in new technology to ensure the long-term preservation of UK recordings and broadcast so that this will be available for generations to come for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said:

 “We are extremely grateful to the The National Lottery Heritage Fund and all our supporters for recognising the urgent need to save these rare, unique recordings from around the UK. The British Library is the home of the nation’s sound archive, and we are delighted that this funding will help us preserve our audio heritage for people to explore and enjoy.”

Ilse Assmann, president of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) said:

“IASA recognises that a significant part of the world’s cultural heritage is captured in the form of sound recordings. These are threatened by decay and media obsolescence and unless something is done urgently, many recordings will be lost and unavailable for access by future generations. The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project is a fine example being set to secure and make accessible the sound heritage held in UK archives.” 

Notes to Editors

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, Headley Trust, the British Library Trust and the American Trust for the British Library and other kind donors.

For more information on the British Library’s Save our Sounds project visit http://www.bl.uk/projects/save-our-sounds

For information, images, interview requests contact Stephanie Knox: Stephanie.knox@bl.uk/ 020 7412 7790

About the British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The British Library is home to the UK’s Sound Archive, a treasure trove of living history containing more than 6.5 million sounds including music, spoken word, oral history, wildlife and the environment dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the 19th century. Discover more and listen at www.bl.uk/sounds

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery

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