Our sound collections feature over 1 million discs, 185,000 tapes, and many other sound and video recordings from all over the world.

Collection guides

Listening and Viewing Service box

Listening and Viewing Service

The Listening and Viewing Service provides free onsite public access to our collection of recorded sound and video.

Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.

We can also provide access to archived BBC Radio broadcasts.

Mon - Thu: 10.00 - 20.00
Fri - Sat: 10.00 - 17.00
Sun and English Public Holidays: closed

You will need a Reader Pass. Over 200,000 digital tracks are available for instant access through our catalogue without an appointment, though you may have to make an appointment to listen to some sounds.

British Library Sounds offers free online access to 80,000 selections from the Library’s extensive collections of unique sound recordings.

T: +44 (0)20 7412 7418
E: Listening@bl.uk

Blog posts

Recording of the week: South African gumboot guitar

Monday, March 19, 2018

This week's selection comes from Dr Janet Topp Fargion, Lead Curator of World and Traditional Music. I was studying Zulu street guitarists in Durban in 1984 when I met Blanket Mkhize, a guitarist from Glebelands male hostel in Umlazi township...

Linguistics at the Library - Episode 4

Friday, March 16, 2018

PhD placement students, Andrew Booth & Rowan Campbell, write: What happens when lots of languages and dialects come into contact with each other? This week, Andrew and Rowan discuss contact effects in super-diverse cities like London, and what happens to...

Memories of Stephen Hawking in An Oral History of British Science

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A number of interviews recorded for An Oral History of British Science at the British Library speak of Stephen Hawking in their interviews

Glottal stops and fluency in non-native English speakers

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

PhD placement student, Rowan Campbell, writes: If you’ve been listening to our podcast (Shameless Plug #378902), you just might have noticed that I, the Scottish one, love glottal stops. This is the sound that’s often written as an apostrophe where...

More blog posts

Related events

Exhibition FREE

Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound


A free exhibition


Brian Eno: Music for Installations

A special audio playback and conversation with Brian Eno

Talks and Discussions

Alfred Taylor, the Boy Wireless: Tuning in to Radio in the 1920s

A look and listen to the early years of British broadcasting with Aleks Kolkowski and Paul Wilson

View all events


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

Edison Fellowships

We offer fellowships to encourage the study of classical music sound recordings

The Future of Radio

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

All projects

Case studies

…The archival material provides fascinating insights…

Christian is evaluating the archival material of Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake.

…My work as an Edison Fellow has profoundly changed my thoughts on music making…

Pianist Marisa Gupta uses historical sound recordings to inform her chamber music performances.

…The research I did as an Edison Fellow at the British Library was invaluable for my PhD…

Alexis Bennett researched 1930s British film music as an Edison Fellow at the British Library.

Library experts

Rob Perks

Lead Curator, Oral History & Director of National Life Stories

Jonnie Robinson

Lead Curator, Spoken English

Mary Stewart

Curator, Oral History, and Deputy Director of National Life Stories

Stephen Cleary

Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings

More staff members

External links

The British Library is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Association of Independent Music

The collective voice of the UK's independent music industry

British Phonographic Industry

Represents the UK’s major record companies and more than 300 independents


International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives

International Bioacoustics Council

Responsible for the organisation of international conferences on bioacoustics

Oral History Society

Dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral history

Wildlife Sound Recording Society

International society dedicated to recording the sounds of the natural world