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Half a million rare recordings saved for the future by Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project


A new £18.8 million sound preservation and access project has received a £9.5 million National Lottery grant to enable the creation of ten sound preservation centres around the UK, including one at National Library of Scotland.

The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage network is led by the British Library and will work to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings that are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played.  
These recordings tell the story of the UK’s diverse history through:
  • traditional, pop and world music
  • drama and literature readings
  • oral history
  • regional radio
  • wildlife sounds from around the country

The National Lottery grant will allow the network to preserve unique and rare regional sounds and develop a range of engagement activities to connect the wider public with their sound heritage.

Across the UK, the project will preserve oral histories from the two world wars; recordings of local dialects; pirate radio and iconic theatre recordings; music from around the world; and sounds of rare and extinct species. Each of these sheds light on the past and the world we live in, providing a reminder that history is recorded in many forms.
A vital element of Unlocking Our Sound Heritage will be an interactive website hosted by the British Library, allowing listeners to explore a wide selection of recordings. This website is scheduled to go live in 2019.
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said: “We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all our supporters for recognising the urgent need to save these rare, unique recordings from around the UK. The British Library is the home of the nation’s sound archive, and we are delighted that this funding will help us preserve our audio heritage for people to explore and enjoy.”
Dr John Scally, Scotland's National Librarian, added: Our sound heritage is under threat as tapes, minidiscs, lacquer, vinyl and shellac discs degrade or equipment to play them becomes obsolete.

“This is a vitally important project that will help to save the nation’s sounds and preserve them to be enjoyed for many generations to come.”
For more on the project, visit the British Library's project website.
(Image copyright National Library of Scotland)

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