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Sound recordings resources

Date posted: 10/11/2008

Your attention is drawn to the British Library’s Archival Sound Recordings resource available at
If your institution is a subscriber to the British Library ( ) you and your students have access to 12000 selected recordings of music, spoken work and human and natural environments.  These are licensed for download and repurposing within an educational context.

Collections available now include:

  • Oral Histories
  • Art and Design interviews with leading British practitioners
  • Jazz in Britain
  • Scientists’ Lives

Other Spoken Word

  • St Mary-Le-Bow Public Debates with leading icons of the 60s debating issues of the day
  • African Writers’ Club radio series on African literary, artistic, musical and political affairs
  • Accents and Dialects
  • History of Recorded Sound


  • Beethoven String Quartets
  • African field recordings
  • Ethnographic wax cylinders

Environmental Sound

  • Soundscapes
  • Amphibian and British Wildlife

New collections are currently being digitized and, subject to copyright clearance, will become available over the next year.  These include:

  • Jewish Holocaust Survivors
  • ICA Talks with iconic figures of the 1980’s
  • Classical Music – pre-1957 recordings of Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and Chopin
  • Decca West African recordings
  • Early Spoken Word – Iconic speeches from 1906 to 1946
  • Traditional Music in England
  • British Ethnomusicologists’ field recordings

If you would like to keep in touch with alerts to collections as they come live, please email to request the quarterly ASR newsletter.  You can also subscribe to an RSS feed for the project blog

The Chair of the Archival Sound Recordings User Panel would like to invite you to explore and make use of this resource if you are not aware of it already and recommend it to colleagues and to students. Under the terms of the licence agreements the material may be used within your work as well as the work of students within your institution, in radio and dramatic productions for instance.

In order to encourage use of this archive and to support its maintenance as an online resource we would like to highlight case studies of how individuals have made use of the various materials available. If you are using the Sound Recording Archive in research or in teaching please let us know.

Recording of the Month competition

Finally, the project runs a Recording of the Month competition to encourage users to explore the collections.  To enter, select a favourite recording and write 50 words on why it is special.  Winners are selected monthly and will receive a £20 book token.

Contacts within the project are:
Ginevra House
Engagement Officer (

Peter Findlay
Project Manager - Archival Sound Recordings 2 Project(
Both are c/o

The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

Ginevra and Peter will also be able to answer questions about material, access and so on.