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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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

Recording of the week: Seabirds in a plastic world

Monday, June 5, 2023

A northern gannet, a seabird with a white body, beige head and blue eyes, sits on a pile of blue and red fishing rope and holds a clump of it in its beak. Photo credit: Thomas Haeusler. Today is World...

Animals: Art, Science and Sound

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Animals: Art, Science and Sound is the first major exhibition to explore the many different ways in which animals have been written about, visualised and recorded over time. Focusing on the British Library’s extensive natural history collections, the exhibition brings...

Recording of the week: Listening to Sun Ra in the year 4000

Monday, May 22, 2023

Publicity shot of Sun Ra, 1973. Distributed by Impulse! Records and ABC/Dunhill Records. Photographer uncredited. Public domain. Throughout his long career the pianist, composer, bandleader and Afrofuturist pioneer Sun Ra (1914-1993) released over one hundred albums, many under his own...

Recording of the week: Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)

Monday, May 15, 2023

Many of you will have seen a fictionalised version of comedian Lenny Bruce in the streamed comedy-drama The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Although the series has no pretensions to documentary accuracy, actor Luke Kirby has clearly done his research. He gives...

More blog posts

Related events

Animals: Art, Science and Sound events


Join us in an exploration of the animal kingdom and marvel the wonders of the natural world.

At the Library and online

Astonishing Animal Migrations

With Mark Cocker on swifts, Sarah Durant on cheetah and Tom Fort on eels

At the Library and online

JLF: Jaipur Literature Festival at the British Library


A weekend of words, books, music, food and camaraderie.

RSL Dalloway Day 2023: Zadie Smith on Virginia Woolf

Zadie Smith is in conversation with Shahidha Bari.

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

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


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.


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.