National Radio Archive

National Radio Archive

We aim to create a digital radio archive which will preserve a representative proportion of ongoing UK radio output.

Published date:

Background

The British Library is recognised as the home of the nation’s radio archive. The current radio collection comprises around 250,000 hours. Additionally, via a longstanding arrangement with the BBC, the Library also provides research access to the extensive radio collections of the BBC Archives.

However, of the estimated 3 million hours of radio broadcast in the UK each year from 700 stations, the Library is acquiring a mere 20,000 hours (mostly news-based content). It is estimated that 92% of current UK radio is not being properly preserved, with only 2% being made available for potential research post-transmission.

The project

To address the gaps in our recordings, the National Radio Archive project (part of the Save our Sounds programme) plans to create a digital radio archive that will preserve a representative proportion of ongoing UK radio output and make this available for research.

Our first step is to build a pilot radio archive, covering up to 50 stations from across the UK, with the potential to develop this into a long-term service.

We will be using speech recognition technology to increase the searchability of radio and to encourage its integration with other, text-based media. The selection of content for the archive will be determined as much by research need as preservation requirements, and we will be interested to learn from research projects where we might be able to collaborate as part of the pilot development.

You can follow developments via the Sound & Vision blog.

Projects

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

The Future of Radio

This 2016 project investigated the future of radio and radio archives.

Opening Up Speech Archives

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

All projects

Blog posts

Linton Kwesi Johnson awarded PEN Pinter Prize 2020

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has been awarded the PEN Pinter Prize 2020. Sarah O’Reilly looks at Johnson’s career through his life story oral history interview for ‘Authors’ Lives’.

Recording of the week: Barbara Kruger in conversation

Monday, July 6, 2020

This week's selection comes from Dr Eva del Rey, Curator of Drama and Literature Recordings and Digital Performance. Barbara Kruger, ‘You Are Not Yourself’, 1981 © Image: callejero / VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND Listen to a recording of visual artist...

The Santals, Scandinavian missionaries, and salvage ethnomusicology: an encounter of three worlds

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Since 2015, Christian Poske has conducted his PhD research on the Bengal recordings of the Arnold Bake Collection. A Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, situated his PhD within two institutions: the British Library Sound...

Recording of the week: A charm to ward off evil

Monday, June 29, 2020

This week's selection comes from Andrew Ormsby, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. Unknown author (unidentified "17th-century English chapbook") / Public domain Staverton Bridge - Holy water (C604/19 C8) In the 1970s, folk song collector Peter Kennedy taught...

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