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

Recording of the week: Electricity in the kitchen

Monday, October 19, 2020

This week's selection comes from Harriet Roden, Digital Learning Content Developer for Unlocking our Sound Heritage. Almost every time someone enters a new room in the UK, there’ll be a flick of a switch. To turn on a light, a...

Making of: The Unearthed Odyssey

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Written by AWATE, Artist-in-Residence for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. In 2019-20, I was the Artist-in-Residence at the British Library Sound Archive for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. I was tasked with creatively using the sounds (up to 7 million!) in order...

Recording of the week: Radio’s Holy Grail

Monday, October 12, 2020

This week's selection comes from Paul Wilson, Curator of Radio Broadcast Recordings. Given that the surviving recordings from British radio’s first decade, the 1920s, can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and that most of those are unintelligible,...

What if your home had ears?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Mary Stewart introduces the new BL web resource If Homes Had Ears. Open your ears, draw back the curtains and peek into domestic life as you may never have heard it before.

More blog posts