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London Metropolitan Archives is one of 10 UK-wide partners who are helping save the nation’s sounds as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.
London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is a public research centre that specialises in the history of London. Provided by the City of London Corporation, we care for and enable access to the historical archives of businesses, schools, hospitals, charities and many more organisations across the capital. Held within these archives are hundreds of audio tapes and discs of music, performing arts and interviews.
In 2018, LMA became London Hub for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project and partnered with several heritage organisations across the capital to support the long-term preservation of a selection of London’s at-risk and vulnerable sound collections. These include:
- Archives and Special Collections at LSE
- Hackney Archives and Local History
- Southwark Local History Library and Archive
- Brent Museum and Archives
- Bexley Local Studies and Archives Centre
- personal collections of Professor Joanna Bornat.
Of particular interest are the audio collections of the:
- Huntley Archives, poetry and talks given by Black writers and activists during the 1980s and early 1990s.
- Inner London Education Authority, progressive educational resources from the 1970s and 1980s tailor-made for London’s children.
- Whitechapel Bell Foundry, recordings made by master bell founder Douglas Hughes during the final years of a centuries-old institution.
- Culture&, music by and interviews with London’s global community of artists from the 1990s and 2000s.
Together, these collections provide a fascinating insight to the sounds of London and the lives of its people - the everyday and the extraordinary - allowing future generations a chance to hear voices often underrepresented in the archive. Of particular significance are those collections that document the experiences of women, Disabled people, ethnic minorities, and people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the capital. Highlights of these include collections:
- Brent in Sound - a 1970s cassette-based ‘talking newspaper’ produced for the visually impaired residents of the borough.
- Muslim Communities Project - oral histories carried out with Muslim residents of Brent in 1995.
- Out of the Dolls House - interviews exploring how women's lives changed during the 20th century. Audio Arts, unpublished recordings from the cassette-based magazine series created by William Furlong and Barry Barker in 1973 including contributions from artists Joseph Beuys, Ian Breakwell, Tracey Emin and Andy Warhol.
- Southwark at War - interviews conducted in 1995 with 92 borough residents about their experiences of World War Two.
- City University Lectures - delivered at City University between 1966 and 1998 on economics, politics, art and science, with speakers ranging from Arthur C. Clarke to Nigel Lawson.
Radical poems, experimental music lessons, tales of triumph and hardship, the dying art of casting bells – all London life is here! To learn more about our project work at LMA, including the collections and volunteers we’ve been fortunate to work with, visit us here:
Blog: London’s Sound Heritage