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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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: The NHS turns 74

Monday, July 4, 2022

This week’s post comes from Hannah Tame, Oral History Cataloguer for the Voices of Our National Health Service collection. On 5 July 2022, the NHS celebrates its 74th anniversary. It seems appropriate then, that this week’s selection is taken from...

Putting 'AIDS: The Unheard Tapes' in context

Monday, June 27, 2022

Mary Stewart, Lead Curator of Oral History, gives more information on the interviews used in a new BBC documentary series. Broadcast tonight on BBC2 is the first in a three-part documentary series entitled AIDS: The Unheard Tapes (27 June, 9.30pm...

Recording of the week: Sharing Somali sounds and stories

Monday, June 27, 2022

This week's selection comes from Emma Brinkhurst, Learning and Engagement Coordinator. As Learning and Engagement Coordinator for the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage programme, a highlight of my role has been working in partnership with Camden Somali Cultural Centre...

Recording of the week: Footsteps on gravel

Monday, June 20, 2022

This week’s post comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings. The tape box in the image above measures 90 mm x 90 mm. Inside, as you can see, is a short loop of tape. This is...

More blog posts

Related events

At the Library and online

Spare Rib and Virago at 50

How did a group of women sitting on the floor of a London basement change the world of publishing forever?

At the Library and online

Black Theatre Making and Censorship in the Archive

Explore Black theatre making in the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays collection.

At the Library

Massaging the Message: Propaganda and the Rise of Populism

Leading experts on propaganda discuss its impact on democracy.

At the Library and online

The Sound of the Machine: My Life in Kraftwerk and Beyond

Karl Bartos in conversation with Jude Rogers. Plus the Ebony Steel Band.

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