Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Unlocking our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums begins work to unlock the region’s sound heritage

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Over the next three years, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) will contribute to the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, a national partnership, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the British Library, to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings that are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played.

Professional consensus internationally is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save many of the nation’s sound collections through digitisation, before they become unreadable and are effectively lost forever. To counteract this, national network of ten sound preservation centres, of which TWAM is one, to digitally preserve some of the most vulnerable sound recordings on, for example, wax cylinders; records; reel-to-reel tape; cassette; digital audio tape. And, in doing so, establish the infrastructure for our audio heritage to be saved and shared with a wide range of audiences. 

Representing the North East and Yorkshire, TWAM will be digitally preserving 5000 recordings, which shape the rich story of the region and wider UK history, through traditional, pop and world music, drama and literature readings, oral history, local radio and wildlife sounds. Recordings will be digitised onsite at Discovery Museum, Newcastle, using specialist equipment and shared with the British Library to form a collection of national recordings made publicly available online.

Dominique Bell, Hub Project Manager (North East and Yorkshire), said “As part of the British Library Save Our Sounds Programme, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage will not only preserve sound recordings but make them accessible like never before. Through an associated outreach and learning programme, we will aim to uncover some of the rarest and at risk audio recordings from across the North East and Yorkshire, sharing many stories that are underrepresented elsewhere. If lost, we lose a huge part of the identity of our region and of the nation as a whole.”

Lizzy Baker, Archive Lead at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums said: “This innovative project will enable us to work with our partner archives, libraries and museums from across the north to preserve the wealth of sound heritage in this region. As an area hub we will become a sustainable centre of expertise in historic sound recordings, beneficial to regional heritage projects and organisations.”

Dr Sue Davies, Project Manager for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage said: “The British Library is delighted to be working closely with partners across the UK on Unlocking our Sound Heritage – this collaborative approach is vital to saving the nation’s sounds. It is wonderful to see work beginning at Tyne & Wear Archives, preserving and digitising recordings which tell a rich history of the North East and Yorkshire.”