British Museum puts entire sound archive online

Posted on: September 4, 2009

In Friday’s (9/4) Guardian (London), Mark Brown reports, “The British Library revealed it has made its vast archive of world and traditional music available to everyone, free of charge, on the internet. That amounts to roughly 28,000 recordings and, although no one has yet sat down and formally timed it, about 2,000 hours of singing, speaking, yelling, chanting, blowing, banging, tinkling and many other verbs associated with what is a uniquely rich sound archive. ‘It is recordings from around the world and right from the beginnings of recorded history,’ said the library’s curator of world and traditional music, Janet Topp Fargion. ‘This project is really exciting. One of the difficulties, working as an archivist, is people’s perception that things are given to libraries and then are never seen again—we want these recordings to be accessible.’ … The recordings go back more than 100 years, with the earliest recordings being the wax cylinders on which British anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon recorded Aboriginal singing on his trip to the Torres Strait islands off Australia in 1898.”

Posted September 4, 2009