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Users can hear any item from our extensive holdings of published and unpublished recordings of music, wildlife, drama, literature, and oral history.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

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage hubs digitise 10,000 recordings

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

BBC Radio Leicester broadcasts fronted by archaeologist Alan McWhirr, a ground-breaking oral history archive of the lives of ordinary Mancunians, historical recordings relating to the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth; these are just a few of the rich...

Recording of the week: sheep gathering in Wales

Monday, December 9, 2019

This week's selection comes from Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife & Environmental Sounds. Most of the library's wildlife recordings focus on the sounds of wild animals, whether that be singing birds in the Australian outback, echolocating dolphins in the Caribbean...

Recording of the week: Kagura - dancing for the Gods

Monday, December 2, 2019

This week's selection comes from Giulia Baldorilli, Reference Specialist. The origin of dance in Japan can be traced back to the age of the gods and the Japanese kagura can be considered a prototype of all Japanese rituals. Kagura combines...

A tribute to Stephen Cleobury by Jessica Duchen

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Jessica Duchen pays tribute to Sir Stephen Cleobury who she interviewed for National Life Stories at the British Library.

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.

Festival

Chortle Comedy Book Festival

A packed day of book-writing comedians

Talks and Discussions

Madeleine Thien in Conversation with Erica Wagner

Two authors discuss migration, diaspora and culture

Performance

Dad's Army Radio Show

Vintage episodes of family favourite radio series, Dad’s Army

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