Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project is an exciting new UK wide project led by the British Library and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Part of the British Library’s Save Our Sounds Programme, the project aims to digitally preserve almost 500,000 endangered sound recordings from across the UK and make 100,000 available online, transforming the visibility of sound archive collections in the process.

The UK’s audio collections are at risk from both physical degradation and from play back technology becoming obsolete. Professional consensus is that we have approximately 15 years to save the UK’s sound collections before they become unplayable and are effectively lost. The solution is to digitally preserve them, but there is a significant amount of work to do and time is running out.

A glimpse at the digitisation studio at Discovery Museum

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) is one of ten Hubs across the UK which is working to preserve some of our most at risk audio recordings before they are lost forever. TWAM is the Hub for the North East and Yorkshire and will be digitising material (which has already been identified) within the region over the next 3 years.

This collection of wax cylinders will be digitised as part of the project

These recordings tell a rich story of the UK’s shared history through traditional, pop and world music, drama and literature readings, oral history, local radio and wildlife sounds. There will be events and activities taking place throughout the project and by 2020 the British Library will make some of the recordings available via a new sound portal on the British Library website.

Part of the Tyne & Wear Archives collection, this reel features the carillon in the Civic Centre

The ten Hubs are: 

 National Museums Northern Ireland 

Archives + in Manchester

Norfolk Record Office

National Library of Scotland

University of Leicester

The Keep in Brighton

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

National Library of Wales

London Metropolitan Archives

Bristol Culture

If you would be interested in volunteering with the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project, please keep an eye on our volunteer website where opportunities will be posted.


Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as generous funding from charities and individuals.                                     


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