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The British Library is fighting to save endangered sounds

Nick Summers, @nisummers
May 20, 2015
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For most of us, thinking about museums and archives will conjure up images of physical relics; faded books, paintings and trinkets discovered beneath the soil. But now, the British Library is fighting to preserve something more elusive: sound. With £9.5 million in fresh Lottery funding, it hopes to digitise and release 500,000 rare and at-risk recordings over the next five years. The challenge is that some audio snippets are currently held on old formats, such as wax cylinders and magnetic tape. They're slowly decaying to a point of irreparability, and the equipment required to play them is becoming harder to source. The British Library estimates that 1 million UK sound collections could be lost in the next 15 years, so in January it started a "Save our Sounds" campaign to preserve them.

It's not just classical music and speeches that'll be protected either -- the library hopes to archive historical recordings of local dialects and accents, endangered wildlife and rare theatre productions. The new funding will also be used to to create a national preservation network with ten regional centres, as well as an outreach programme that encourages schools and communities to explore some of its more weird and wonderful extracts.

[Image Credit: Clare Kendall/British Library]

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