I recently attended an advisory meeting for the British Library Save Our Sounds project on behalf of the Community Media Association. The British Library has a collection of over six million sound recordings in its archive. These are on many different formats and include recordings of “music, drama and literature, oral history, wildlife and environmental sounds.”
The purpose of the archive is to make available for posterity a national sound collection, so that scholars and researchers in the future can access a complete range of sound-based artefacts which help to tell the story of our lives and the world that we live in.
More recently the British Library has been working on a programme of digitisation that will allow visitors to the British Library collection to be able to listen to accessible versions of the recordings from the archives, with many of these recordings also being made available to listen to via the British Library website.
The British Library was awarded funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund to “digitise up to 500,000 rare, unique and at-risk sound recordings from our Sound Archive and other key collections around the country, and make as many available as possible.”
The Save Our Sounds project involves establishing a directory of the sound archives that are held in other libraries and collections around the UK, and will also see the setting up of regional hubs to help coordinate and develop support for sound collections that will inform future generations of our audio heritage.
The Community Media Association is keen to support these initiatives, as there is a focus on inclusivity and diversity in the type of sounds and materials that will be collected and added to the archive. The process hasn’t been finalised yet, but a sample of community radio stations will be recorded off-air and added to the archive.
The sound archive also gives independent community media organisations an opportunity to be included in the development of the story of sound in the United Kingdom, by submitting independent content through an automated cataloguing system that will automatically manage the collection of content to the archive.
What might be of interest in the future for community media projects, is to have significant content that is being recorded and shared within our communities to also be included in the sound archive, thus preserving a representative and diverse body of sound recordings for the future.