Save our Sounds

​​Save Our Sounds

Saving the nation's sound heritage

We must save our audio heritage in the next 15 years before the recordings become completely unplayable.

By digitising the sound collections and storing them in secure, preservation-format storage, they will be safe and remain accessible to the public forever. 

The British Library sound archive is an extraordinary collection of over 6 million irreplaceable recordings dating back to the birth of recorded sound. Sound holds an important place in our national memory and engagement with history. If someone asks you to think about Winston Churchill, chances are that you'll hear his voice in your mind rallying the nation just before the Battle of Britain. Sound has the capacity to transport us to a precise moment in time. But our recordings risk being lost forever as tapes, minidiscs, laquer, vinyl and shellac discs degrade or the playback equipment becomes obsolete.

Interested to help preserve the nation's audio heritage?

Please contact
Michele Burton
Head of Fundraising
T +44 (0)20 7412 7030

We predict we have only 15 years to Save Our Sounds before they become unreadable or degrade too far and are lost forever. We need to digitise and store our sounds in our secure digital depository, making them safe and accessible to the public for years to come. We have just commenced an ambitious 5-year project (2017-2022), working with 10 partner institutions around the UK to save 500,000 of the most rare and fragile recordings from all over the country and make them freely available online. A comprehensive learning and engagement programme will raise awareness and appreciation of these unique materials. We have launched a major fundraising campaign to save these sounds and received a major £9.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as generous grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Headley Trust and others towards this work. We must now raise a further £300,000 of matched funds.

How you can help

Please get in touch with us if you would like to discuss how you or your organisation can help preserve the nation's audio heritage. To make a donation today, simply click donate now and choose "Save our Sounds".

What else is the British Library doing to preserve the nation's audio heritage?

As well as seeking to safeguard our existing recorded heritage, we want to preserve the future of sound recordings too. We’ll be working intensively with industry partners to streamline the way in which the Library collects the UK's radio and music output digitally, ensuring an effective sound archive for future generations of researchers.

Why are sound recordings particularly at risk?

Sound recordings are at risk of both technological obsolescence and degradation. Physically, audio visual carriers such asdiscs, tapes typically have a shorter life span than paper or text documents. As technologydevelops so quickly, playback equipment becomesoutdated and disappears from production. 

Find out  more about our project to preserve the nation's audio heritage. Or listen to some of the sounds we have already preserved.