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.

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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.


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

Merrie England

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Illustration from HMV set of Merrie England (Courtesy of Damien's 78s) By Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music To celebrate St George’s Day this year I have selected a work whose popularity lasted well into the twentieth century. When Arthur...

Recording of the week: a lesson in bird song duets and trios

Monday, April 22, 2019

This week's selection comes from Greg Green, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. With hundreds of recordings of birds from around East Africa, Myles E. W. North is a name that constantly crops up within the enormous collection...

Recording of the week: opening the Tyne Bridge

Monday, April 15, 2019

This week's selection comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings. This week's Recording of the week - composed of two recordings in fact, an A-side and a B-side - is drawn from the disc issued by...

Recording of the week: Cello or drum? Meet the ütőgardon

Monday, April 8, 2019

This week's selection comes from Michele Banal, Audio Project Cataloguer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. Husband and wife Mihaly and Gizella Halmagyi were a duo of professional musicians from Gyimes Valley, in the Romanian stretch of the Eastern Carpathians. Their...

More blog posts