Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project
"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
From 2018 to 2021 London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) was one of ten regional hubs across the UK to join the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF). Other regional hubs included 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.
This ambitious project formed part of the wider Save Our Sounds programme, which aimed 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
The project at LMA ended in December 2021, after digitising over 3,600 tapes and cataloguing nearly 8,000 sound recordings. These recordings included oral history, music, poetry and public speech selected from both our own audio collections and those held at local archives, universities, museums and galleries across the Greater London area.
Throughout the project we shared our experience via LMA social media channels and our blog, London’s Sound Heritage.
Many practical and creative learning resources were made during the project, including online tutorials on caring for sound at home and creating music using every day household objects. Furthermore, a number of project recordings selected by the team and our volunteers were brought together in a compilation titled ‘Audio Anthology’. These resources can be found on our YouTube channel, alongside a number of online workshops created for our ‘Radical Voices’ series which used recordings from the Eric and Jessica Huntley archives (LMA/4463) to encourage conversation about Black history; relating to themes such as education, activism and poetry.
Moving forward, we are already working to create new pages on our catalogue that introduce the many different recordings held in our collections. The pages will include audio clips, resources and support our researchers access sound, explaining along the way why particular types – such as oral history – are important to our understanding of London history