Join us at the British Library this autumn as we celebrate the Library’s sound archive with a Season of Sound, an exhibition and accompanying events programme

Free exhibition, Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound, opens in our Entrance Hall Gallery and will explore how sound has shaped and influenced our lives since the phonograph was invented in 1877, and how innovations in recording technology and radio broadcasting have transformed our listening experience

Prepare to get loud with the Library’s lively events programme celebrating all aspects of the listening experience, including our Late at the Library series, with electronic pioneers the Radiophonic Workshop and a night of music and DJs using the audio experts Bowers & Wilkins acclaimed Sound System, as well as events with David Attenborough, Evelyn Glennie and David Toop

This autumn the British Library is delving into its extraordinary collection of over 6.5 million recordings of speech, music, wildlife and the environment, from the 1880s to the present day, with a Season of Sound. This exhibition and events programme will look back over 140 years of recorded sound and explore how important sound has been to our lives since the invention of the phonograph in 1877. Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound runs from 6 October 2017 – 11 March 2018 in our Entrance Hall Gallery and reflects the importance of sound in recording our lives and cultural heritage, and the impact of radio in the 20th century. Visitors will have the opportunity to hear an eclectic mix of sounds from the archive including many rare and unpublished recordings. There will be items on display from our rarely-seen collection of records, players and recorders, exploring how technology has transformed our listening experience. This free exhibition will also highlight key moments and figures in the history of recorded sound, including the birth of the BBC, the rise of the pop charts, and 16-year-old Alfred Taylor, whose ‘Wireless Log’ in 1922 can be compared to modern-day vloggers and YouTubers.

Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings at the British Library, said of the exhibition: “The British Library has always been known as the home of the nation’s words, but visitors may not be aware that we are home to the nation’s sounds, too. We’re delighted to be opening up our sound archive with this Season of Sound, as part of our ongoing work to preserve and allow access to the nation’s sound heritage.”

This Season of Sound is part of the British Library’s Save our Sounds programme, which launched in 2016. Save our Sounds has been launched by the British Library to address the threat to the nation’s sound collection by digitising those rare, unique or fragile recordings which are most at risk, as well as delivering online resources and a vibrant programme of activities across the UK, connecting people with their audio heritage. The programme is supported by a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Save Our Sounds is also investing in new technology to ensure the long-term preservation of UK recordings and broadcast radio so that they will be available for generations to come, for research, inspiration and enjoyment.

The Season of Sound events programme will run until late March 2018, with events still to be announced. Tickets are available to book now for British Library Members and on general sale from Friday 8 September.


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