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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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: Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Monday, September 26, 2022

This week’s post comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator, Literary and Creative Recordings. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma (‘Great-souled’) Gandhi, led India’s campaign to rid itself of British rule. In October 1931, during his fifth and final visit...

Recording of the week: The Rite of Spring

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

This week’s post comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Sound and Vision Reference Specialist. The following post is inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s famous work, The Rite of Spring. The audio featured below is an excerpt from a 12” 78 rpm disc from...

Recording of the week: Childhood memories of D. H. Lawrence

Monday, September 12, 2022

This week’s post comes from Sarah Kirk-Browne, Cataloguer, Digital Multimedia Collections. One of the most exciting things about exploring the sound archive is all the unexpected things you stumble across. While researching the Nottinghamshire dialect, I listened to this recording...

Recording of the week: Oskar Nedbal (1874-1930)

Monday, September 5, 2022

This week’s post comes from Jonathan Summers, Curator of Classical Music Recordings. Above: The Bohemian Quartet in 1895. Left to right: Karel Hoffmann (1st violinist); Hanuš Wihan (violoncellist); Oskar Nedbal (violist); and Josef Suk (2nd violinist). Photographer unknown. A name...

More blog posts

Related events

At the Library

Polari Prize shortlist showcase

Writers shortlisted for the UK’s only LGBTQ+ book awards showcase their work.

At the Library

Ann Sutton in Words and Film

Celebrating weaver and artist Ann Sutton and the Crafts Lives archive.

At the Library and online

I'll Be There: An Evening with Duke Fakir of The Four Tops

In conversation with one of the great vocal groups.

At the Library

The Listening Project with Fi Glover

This event is being postponed until spring 2023, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and will be sharing the new date as soon as possible.

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