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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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

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...

More blog posts

Related events

Workshop FREE

Sounds Familiar?

Monday to Friday

Led by British Library experts in English accents and dialects, this session introduces ways of analysing spoken English.

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

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

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