Music

The British Library is saving rare vinyl sounds

By Kitty Knowles 18 April 2017
Summary

Let the Great British upload begin.

Vinyl gets scratched, it takes up room, and it’s cumbersome to move around.

But still, purists agree: you can’t beat the resonance of the needle in the groove.

Now, the British Library is on a mission to preserve the nation’s old records, along with precious sounds stored on other obsolete media, like video tapes, Betamax, and cassettes.

It’s hoped that the project, called Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, will see rare political interviews, oral histories from WW1, near-obsolete dialects, iconic theatrical performances, and even the calls of extinct wildlife, uploaded for future generations to hear.

All this alongside early recordings of your favourite musical legends, of course.

The big digital upload

Today there are around 500,000 recordings at risk of destruction, or physical degradation. But the British Library’s plan is to launch sound preservation centres at 10 libraries and institutions across Britain – to “save the sounds of a country”.

Largely backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the £19m project will invite archivists at these centres to help identify half a million valuable audio clips to be transformed into digital files.

You could be exploring the unique audio archive online as early as 2019.

“Unless something is done urgently, many recordings will be lost and unavailable for access by future generations,” said Ilse Assmann, president of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives.

The call is urgent: do you have any superb sounds in the attic you think ought to be shared?