British Library UK Sound Directory Project – 12 January to 31 March 2015

British Library UK Sound Directory Project: Selecting a tape from the shelf


Help us create a directory of the UK’s recorded sound collections

Sound recordings help us to understand the world around us. They document the UK’s creative endeavours, preserve key moments in history, capture personal memories, and give a sense of local and regional identity.

But the nation’s sound collections are under threat, both from physical degradation and the disappearance of the technologies that support them.

To understand the risks facing the UK’s sound collections and to map the scale of the problem, the British Library is initiating a project to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a directory of sound collections in the UK. By telling us what you have, you can help us plan for their preservation for future generations.

The survey runs from 12 January to 31 March 2015.

Why are we doing this now?

Many sound recording formats, from wax cylinders to digital MiniDiscs, rely on equipment no longer manufactured or supported by technology industries. Other formats, such as magnetic tape or lacquer disc, are fast degrading to the point of irreparability. International consensus holds that we have around 15 years in which to preserve our sound collections. By 2030, the scarcity of older equipment, the condition of recorded media and the loss of skills will make their preservation costly, difficult and, in many cases, impossible.

What are we looking for?

Our aim is to create a comprehensive picture of the nation’s sound collections. We are looking for information on collections held in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, voluntary organisations, companies, studios, record labels, broadcasters, press and in private hands.

We are particularly interested in the rare and the unique: recordings that are known to exist in small numbers, and those that exist nowhere else.

In the context of our survey, a ‘collection’ might be a thematically-arranged series of recordings, the entire archive of a collection holder, or even a single rare or unique item.

How can I help?

We’ve made it as easy as possible for you to send us information about the recordings you hold.

Single collections

For those wishing to send information about single collections, there’s an online form. The form will take you through some quick and simple questions about you, and about the collection you hold or are responsible for.

Larger collections

For those wishing to send us information about larger collections, there’s a spreadsheet.  To download see:

Completed spreadsheets should be emailed to us
If you’re unsure how to start, or have any questions about sending us your data, please email us at or call James Knight on +44 (0)20 7412 7345.

For more details see:

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