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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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

Online enquiry form

Blog posts

In the words of survivors: what was 'ordinary' about the Holocaust?

Friday, January 27, 2023

By Dr Madeline White, Curator of Oral History. Reflecting on the Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 theme of 'ordinary people', I wondered what – if anything – the word 'ordinary' meant to the people who survived the genocide. In a time...

Recording of the week: Bob Cobbing (1920-2002)

Monday, January 23, 2023

This week’s recording of the week was selected by Steve Cleary, Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings. Above: Image of Bob Cobbing from a scan supplied by Jennifer Cobbing in 2008. Photographer not known. This is a selection from the...

Why do hammer-headed fruit bats honk?

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Hammer-headed Fruit Bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is the largest of the African bats. Named for its unusual appearance, this species is a classic example of sexual dimorphism at work, with males and females displaying significant differences in both size and...

Recording of the week: ‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’ by Linton Kwesi Johnson

Monday, January 16, 2023

This week’s post comes from Daisy Chamberlain, Preservation Assistant for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Chapelton, Jamaica in 1952. His mother, Sylvena, migrated to Britain just before Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom in...

More blog posts

Related events

FREE

Once upon a River: Folksongs and Poetry beyond Punjab's Borders

A glimpse into the folk traditions of the Punjab region.

At the Library and online

The Further Queer Adventures of Alexander the Great: Boyfriend, Activist and Porn Star

Exploring queer identity from ancient times to the present. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, hosted by Bad Gays.

At the Library

Paul Muldoon: The Castle of Perseverance

A collaboration with artist Philip Pearlstein.

At the Library

The Story of Aids: the Unheard Tapes

Discover how the amazing documentary was created using interviews archived at the Library.

View all events

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

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

More 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.

…It will be in the British Library for eternity!…

Hannah's collaborative PhD research will lead to a new archive on black British poetry in performance.

Library experts

Dr Janet Topp Fargion

Head of Sound and Vision

Isobel Clouter

True Echoes, Principal Investigator

Jonnie Robinson

Lead Curator, Spoken English

Mary Stewart

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

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

IASA

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

Sound stories

Explore selected themes through sounds from the archive.

*Coast*

From mermaids and grey seals to crashing waves and shipping forecasts, discover the sounds and stories scattered along the shore.

*If homes had ears*

Open your ears, draw back the curtains and peek into domestic life as you may never have heard it before.

*Speaking out*

What does it take to produce a powerful speech remembered for generations? Explore our vibrant collection of online resources centred around famous speakers. Discover the power of public speaking.