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British Library launches 'Save our Sounds'

By James Cridland for media.info
Posted 13 January 2015, 1.14pm est

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The British Library have launched the Save our Sounds programme with a major fundraising campaign to digitise and digitally preserve the most fragile and unique recordings.

Save our Sounds is one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future, news of which was announced recently by former BBC Head of Archive and now the Library’s Chief Executive, Roly Keating:

Sound recordings document some of our greatest creative endeavours, preserve key moments in our history, capture personal memories, give a sense of local and regional identity and they help us to understand the world around us. And they are extraordinarily powerful in bringing back to life past events: famous speeches, the voices of loved ones and those who have sadly left us, musical and other artistic performances, notable events in recent history and the familiar and exotic sounds of natural and urban environments. We need to preserve sounds today - to listen to the past tomorrow. So it’s vital that we act now to ensure they are accessible for future generations.

According to the Library, many sound recording formats, from wax cylinders to digital MiniDiscs, rely on equipment no longer manufactured or supported by technology industries. Other formats, such as magnetic tape or lacquer disc, are fast degrading to the point of irreparability. International consensus holds that we have around 15 years in which to preserve our sound collections. By 2030, the scarcity of older equipment, the condition of recorded media and the loss of skills will make their preservation costly, difficult and, in many cases, impossible.

The British Library are mapping the condition of sound archives around the UK to identify threatened collections – if you have a sound collection which you think could be at risk, get in touch and let them know. The census will run until the end of March 2015, and the Library says they are keen to hear from those with private collections as much as the public and commercial archives out there.

You can discover more at the UK Sound Directory website, and on their blog.

James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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