Skip to content
Date updated: 2/24/2021

"Sound collections are under threat, both from physical degradation, and as the means of playing such sounds disappear from production. Professional consensus internationally is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save many of our sound collections through digitisation, before they become unreadable and are effectively lost."

Will Prentice, British Library

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is one of ten regional hubs across the UK to join the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Other regional hubs include National Museums Northern Ireland, Archives+ in Manchester, Norfolk Record Office, National Library of Scotland, University of Leicester, The Keep in Brighton, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, National Library of Wales and Bristol Culture.

Image showing a Sound Making Studio in 1924
Behind the scenes at the 'Making Noises' workshop of the 2LO radio station, 1924

This ambitious project is part of the wider Save Our Sounds programme, which aims to:

  • Digitally preserve almost half a million rare and at-risk sound recordings
  • Establish a network of audio preservation centres across the UK
  • Engage more people with the value of sound recordings

Between 2018 and 2021 LMA aims to digitise and catalogue 5,000 sound recordings, from our audio collections as well as those held at local archives, universities, museums and galleries across the Greater London area. These cover everything from oral histories to world music, academic lectures to urban soundscapes.

We’ll be posting updates on the project via LMA social media channels and our blog, London’s Sound Heritage.

Discover more on the London Sounds Blog
Image showing singers performing at the ‘All Together Now’ festival, Deptford 1978
Singers performing at the ‘All Together Now’ festival, Deptford 1978

Audio Anthology

Since 2018, the Unlocking our Sound Heritage (UOSH) project at London Metropolitan Archives has been digitising a selection of sound archives from across the capital. These include oral history, world music and the performing arts. To date we have preserved over 7,000 recordings, making the job of creating this compilation a challenge.

How did we do it? Well, we asked members of the project team and our wonderful volunteers to select and introduce their favourite.

We had a fantastic time pulling it together, below you will find the tracklist:

  • Intro
  • Track 1 - Wheelchair Ballroom Dancers, The Ealing Saints | Brent in Sound, Brent Museum and Archives
  • Track 2 - Poetry by Merle Collins | Bogle-L'Ouverture, London Metropolitan Archives
  • Track 3 - Memories of WWII rationing with Christa Gulliver | Southern Housing Group, London Metropolitan Archives
  • Track 4 - Creating Music in Class | Inner London Education Authority, London Metropolitan Archives
  • Track 5 - Interview with Charles Esche | Audio Arts, Tate Archives
  • Track 6 - Memories of Petticoat Lane Market with Hyam Gilbert | Interviews with Hackney Residents, Hackney Archives
  • Track 7 - Community life with Joan Foster | Five Women, London School of Economics Special Collections
  • Track 8 - The childhood memories of Muhammed Asif | Muslim Communities Project, Brent Museum and Archives
  • Outro

Thank you in particular to our volunteers for their contributions - Sophia, Richard, Tim and Gosia.

​We are looking for volunteers to help us support three main areas:

  • Cataloguing and Research

    In this role volunteers will help prepare collections for digitisation and develop knowledge around project collections, working on transcripts and researching people and events

  • Audio Digitisation

    In this role volunteers will support the digitisation of audio material and use sound editing software to edit recordings for our learning and engagement programme.

  • Learning and Engagement

    In this role volunteers will have the opportunity to work with our sound recordings, once fully digitised and catalogued, to engage audiences through training workshops, social media, public events and more.

For more information about how to volunteer at LMA, email the Audio Digitisation Team.

To help individuals and community groups discover the many recordings that will be digitised throughout the project, from September 2020 our programme of Engagement and Learning events will begin.

Initially, events will be delivered online to our school groups using original recordings to inspire pupils to listen, respond and create sound. Building on this, and into 2021, we will then use the various types of recording we work with - such as oral history, music and sound - to engage wider audiences.

We look forward to sharing with you the fantastic range of content being digitised, so please do keep an eye out on our website and social media channels for all upcoming and future events.

​During the project we will be working with a number of partners to understand more about London’s sound heritage. We will share this information on our blog, where we will also provide resources to help you look after and research your own collections.

Sound Maps and Websites:

We are working with a number of contributors to showcase the richness and variety of London’s sound heritage. These will include the Tate, National Theatre, Royal Institution and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), as well as borough archives such as Hackney, Brent, and Southwark.

Email the Audio Digitisation Team