THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

10 posts categorized "Newsfilm"

07 September 2016

Olympic memories

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Are you missing the Olympic Games? At the British Library, as part of our Broadcast News service of current television and radio recordings, we recorded the Rio Games every day. We didn't have the capacity to record all of the estimated 3,000 hours or more that the BBC broadcast, but we did record the main summary programmes, including each day's Olympic Breakfast (BBC One), Olympic Sportsday (BBC News), 5 live Olympic Breakfast and 5 live Olympic Download (BBC 5 live), plus round-up coverage from the main broadcast across the three channels employed by the BBC. We also recorded the entirety of one day's coverage (Day 11, 16 August 2016) across BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and 5 live, to illustrate how the full broadcast operation worked. And of course we recorded the opening and closing ceremonies.

Usain

Usain Bolt winning the Men's 100m

All of these programmes are now available view at our London and Boston Spa sites, and can be found on the Explore catalogue. Simply type in the title of the programme from the list below, select Moving Images or Audio under Material Type if necessary, then click on the Details tab to find the link to the playable programme. Or if you are onsite you can go to a terminal in any Reading Room and find them through the Broadcast News service itself (choose Sound and Moving Image services from the welcome page and then follow the links). For copyright reasons we are unable to make the programmes available outside our reading rooms.

Programmes recorded:

  • 5 live Olympic Breakfast [series] (BBC Radio 5 live)
  • 5 live Olympic Download [series] (BBC Radio 5 live)
  • Mo Farah: Race of His Life (BBC One)
  • Olympic Breakfast [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympic Sportsday [series] (BBC News]
  • Olympics 2016 [series] (BBC One, Two or Four)
  • Olympics 2016: Countdown to Rio (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2016: Opening Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2016: Closing Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Tom Daley: Diving for Gold (BBC One)

Cauldron

The cauldron from the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony

Broadcast News started record back in 2010, so we were there for London 2012. Again, we weren't able to record everything of the huge amount of video broadcast by the BBC, but we recorded the round-up programmes and the opening and closing ceremonies. All of these are also available on Broadcast news and are discoverable via Explore.

Programmes recorded:

  • Olympics Countdown (BBC One)
  • Olympics Opening Ceremony (BBC One)
  • Olympics 2012 [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympics Tonight [series] (BBC One)
  • Olympic Sportsday [series] (BBC News)
  • Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremony (BBC One)

Of course, we recorded the Paralympic Games in 2012 and are geared up to document the Paralympics in Rio from today. Once that archive has been amassed, another blog post will follow.

11 December 2015

Audio-Visual Resources and The Academic Book of the Future

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In early 2015 I was fortunate enough to catch Bex Lyons giving a presentation on The Academic Book of the Future. This is a research project sponsored by the British Library and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and delivered by a research team led by Dr Samantha Rayner at UCL. The project seeks to explore the future of academic books in the context of open access publishing and digital change.

ABF

Aside from the fascinating debates about what constitutes ‘academic’, what constitutes a ‘book’, and what an ‘academic book’ might be in the current research landscape – I was struck by the potential applications of the project to the collection I am vested in at The British Library: sound.

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The British Library sound archive is an extraordinary collection of over 6.5 million recordings dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the early 19th century. If you were to listen to our entire collection back to back, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no holidays or breaks, it would take you over 140 years – plus the collection is growing daily! It is a unique research resource, comparable only to the Library of Congress sound collections in the USA. Find out more about our collection here 

Sound recordings are the closest thing to time travel that we have as a research tool. Take for instance this audio clip of JRR Tolkien visiting a tobacco shop. We are instantly transported to 1929 when the recording was made, and it is easy to feel that you are being addressed directly. The time that has passed between then and now seems to vanish. (image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/12255828365)

The Save Our Sounds project

Professional reel-to-reel player being maintainedMany of the British Library’s recordings are under threat of disappearing as technologies change and some formats begin to naturally decay, and in response to this challenge the Library has launched a major campaign to digitise our historic sound collections.

As well as enabling us to future-proof our collections, the Save Our Sounds campaign is a unique opportunity for us to take stock of our role as audio heritage archivists, cataloguers, librarians, and collectors. Part of this includes considering access and the ways in which our collections are used by researchers. It is here, at the crossroads of research and engagement, that linking up with The Academic Book of the Future project becomes very exciting.

At the moment, if an ‘academic text’ includes audio or visual resources these tend to be included as DVDs, CDs, and perhaps even CD-ROMs (yes, they are still floating around out there!). As the technological landscape of the world changes, the ability to access and play CDs, DVDs and most definitely CD-ROMs will become increasingly limited. From the initial survey work that has been done for the Save Our Sounds project, the main preservation concern is not that the recordings themselves are at risk of disappearing, but the obsolescence of the playback equipment.

So, how will audio-visual resources be included in academic books of the future?

In current and emerging contexts in which content is increasingly digitised and media-rich, how will the ability to incorporate audio-visual research directly into research outputs change the way in which these outputs are created, accessed, and referenced?

We hope that working with The Academic Book of the Future project to address some of these questions will offer important insights into how researchers are using sound and moving image resources, and highlight common issues and concerns across disciplines.

If you are or have used sound and/or audio-visual materials for research do please complete our short survey. The closing date is Friday 1st April.

A symposium has been arranged to discuss the findings of the survey & hear presentations by publishing houses, app developers, and researchers. The symposium will address and encourage discussing ways of working together to fully explore the potential of audio-visual components in the academic book of the future. Save the date – 23rd May 2016 at The British Library, London.

Find out more about Save our Sounds at www.bl.uk/saveoursounds, follow @SoundHeritage for live updates from our digitisation studio, @SoundArchive for tweets from the sound team, and use #SaveOurSounds to join the conversation on Twitter.

Steven Dryden - Sound & Vision Reference Specialist 

11 October 2013

World Newsreels Online

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Sampler video for World Newsreels Online

I'm delighted to be able to report that the British Library is now offering access in its Reading Rooms to World Newsreels Online 1929-1966.

This is a collection from Alexander Street Press of 500 hours (8,000 individual items) of newsreels (filmed news for cinema release) from Japan, France, the Netherlands and the USA, including wartime propaganda newsreels and a complete run of the important The March of Time series in its American edition (the British release version was slightly different). Most of the films have been fully transcribed, with transcriptions available in synchronisation presentation alongside the video. The contents include:

Nippon News—36 hours of Japanese newsreels from 1940-48 with English transcripts.

Four French newsreels, 75 hours of fully translated and transcribed news items from:

  • Les Actualités Mondiales—Selections 15-20 minutes in length, adapted from the German series that ran from 1940 to 1946.
  • France Actualités—A coproduction of the Vichy regime and the Germans from 1942 to 1944.
  • France Libre Actualités—1944–1945 segments from an offshoot of the French Resistance.
  • Les Actualités Francaise—selections from the 1945–1969 series in which the French state discussed war topics, consequences, and reconstruction

The March of Time—Full run of this American series, 115 hours of fully transcribed content, 1935-51.

United Newsreel—More than 35 hours of 1942-46 American weekly newsreel produced by the US Office of War Information, complete with transcripts.

Universal Newsreel—More than 200 hours of content with full transcripts from Universal Studios’s bi-weekly series that ran 1929-46.

Polygoon Profliti—87 hours of Dutch newsreel 1939-45.

The March of Time is of huge importance for the history of news on film. It was founded by Louis de Rochment in 1935 as an offshoot of Time magazine and as a follow on to a CBS radio series of the same name which started in 1931. It immediately made its mark with its dynamic presentation of the stories behind the news. It courted controversy in its outspokeness, in its occasional use of dramatised recreations, and in its choice of controversial themes at a time when newsreels (the form of news shown regularly in all cinemas) were looked upon more as part of the entertainment industry than as hard news offerings. Its distinctive bold style with booming commentary was artfully pastiched by Orson Welles for the News on the March sequence in Citizen Kane (1941).

The series ran in cinemas until 1951. Notable stories include Leadbelly (vol. 1 issue 2, 1935), Huey Long (vol. 1, issue 3, 1935), Father Divine (vol. 2 issue 2, 1936), League of Nations Union (vol. 2, issue 5, 1936), An Uncle Sam Production (vol. 3 issue 4, 1936), Conquering Cancer (vol. 3, issue 6, 1937) and the issue-length Inside Nazi Germany (vol. 6 issue 6, 1938) and Norway in Revolt (vol. 8 issue 2, 1941)

The key publication on The March of Time is Raymond Fielding's book The March of Time 1936-1951 (1978) and he provides a handy overview of the series on the HBO Archives site.

World Newsreels Online is available now in the British Library Reading Rooms and adds to our growing number of onsite audiovisual resources, including the Library's own television and radio news service, Broadcast News, which has a collection of over 30,000 UK TV and radio news programmes recorded since May 2010, to which over 60 hours of new content is added daily.

British Library onsite users can access World Newsreels Online via our Electronic Databases pages. Sadly access is not possible outside our Reading Rooms.

02 October 2012

New broadcast media resources at the British Library

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Bbcpilot_frontpage

The British Library is piloting three major new television and radio resources within its St Pancras, Colindale and Boston Spa reading rooms. Together with our existing sound collections the Library is now providing instant onsite access to nearly a million sound and moving image items. Additionally, we are now giving access to programme and transmission data for a further 20 million recordings, a proportion of which can also be made available for onsite listening - with advance notice - on request.

The three services are:

BBC Pilot Service

This is a trial service produced by the BBC in collaboration with the British Library. It brings together the BBC's programme catalogue, Radio Times data and BBC television and radio programmes recorded off-air from mid-2007 to the end of 2011. There are currently approximately 2.2 million catalogue records and 190,000 playable programmes, both television and radio. The Pilot Service is being made available in the Library's Reading Rooms on a trial basis between October 2012 and March 2013 but we hope to extend and augment the service in the future.

Broadcast News

This service provides access to daily television and radio news and current affairs programmes from seventeen channels (fifteen TV, two radio) broadcast in the UK since May 2010, recorded off-air by the British Library. The programmes will be almost instantly available, with new programmes available in our Reading Rooms within hours of broadcast. We currently record forty-six hours per day, including television services of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Al-Jazeera English, NHK World, CNN, France 24, Bloomberg, Russia Today and China's CCTV News, plus key news and current affairs programmes from BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. Many of the television programmes come with subtitles, which we have made word-searchable, greatly enhancing Broadcast News as a research resource.

TRILT (Television & Radio Index for Learning & Teaching)

TRILT is a database of all UK television and radio broadcasts since 2001 (and selectively back to 1995). It covers every channel, every broadcast and every repeat, some 15 million records so far and growing by a million per year. Produced by the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) it is regularly used by many universities but has never before been available to general users.

Broadcast News - Front page

 

For reasons of copyright and licence, the three services can only be made available in our Reading Rooms for registered British Library users. The sound and moving image items can be accessed at any of the dedicated multimedia terminals within each Reading Room. There are currently twenty-five terminals, at least one per Room, but this will soon be increased to sixty. Eventually we aim to equip every Reading Room terminal for multimedia access.

To access the new services just follow the link to Sound and Moving Image services from the front page of any Reading Room terminal equipped with headphones (you can't use your own headphones, please note).

We are keen to have feedback from users, and you will find a link to a survey at each of the multimedia terminals. Do fill it in and let us know your thoughts on the services and how you think we can develop things further.

Additional information on our moving image holdings and services is available on the Library's Help for Researchers pages.

01 October 2012

New moving image service at the British Library

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Bbcpilot_frontpage

Today, 1 October 2012, sees the piloting of the British Library's moving image services. We've provided access to our specialist moving image collections as an appointment service before now, but from today we are offering two new, instant access services for anyone researching in one of our Reading Rooms (at St Pancras, Colindale or Boston Spa) and special access to a huge television and radio database. In combination with our existing sound collections we can provide instant access to nearly a million sound and moving image items onsite, supported by data for over 20 million sound and moving image recordings.

The three services are:

BBC Pilot Service

This is a trial service produced by the BBC in collaboration with the British Library. It brings together the BBC's programme catalogue, Radio Times data and BBC television and radio programmes recorded off-air from mid-2007 to the end of 2011. There are approximately 2.2 million catalogue records and 190,000 playable programmes, both television and radio. The Pilot Service is being made available in the Library's Reading Rooms on a trial basis between October 2012 and March 2013, and users should look on the catalogue as a platform on which we hope to build further services in the future.

Broadcast News

This service provides access to daily television and radio news programmes from seventeen channels (fifteen TV, two radio) broadcast in the UK since May 2010, recorded off-air by the British Library. The programmes will be almost instantly available, with new programmes available in our Reading Rooms within hours of broadcast. We currently record forty-six hours per day, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Al-Jazeera English, NHK World, CNN, France 24, Bloomberg, Russia Today and China's CCTV News. Many of the programmes come with subtitles, which we have made word-searchable, greatly enhancing Broadcast News as a research resource.

TRILT (Television & Radio Index for Learning & Teaching)

TRILT is a database of all UK television and radio broadcasts since 2001 (and selectively back to 1995). It covers every channel, every broadcast and every repeat, some 15 million records so far and growing by a million per year. Produced by the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) it is regularly used by many universities but has never before been available to general users.

Broadcast News - Front page

 

For reasons of copyright and licence, the three services can only be made available in our Reading Rooms for registered British Library users. The sound and moving image items can be accessed at dedicated multimedia terminals (equipped with non-sound leakage headphones) of which there will be at least one in every Reading Room. We're starting with twenty-five terminals and will soon raise this to sixty. Eventually - if things develop as we hope they will - every terminal that we provide for users in our Reading Rooms should be equipped for multimedia access.

To find the services, just follow the link to Sound and Moving services from the front page of any Reading Room terminal - but remember you'll need to pick one equipped with headphones to hear any of it (you can't plug in your own headphones, please note).

We are keen to have feedback from users, and you will find a link to a survey at each of the multimedia terminals. Do fill it in and let us know your thoughts on the services and how you think we can be developing things further.

We have more in the pipeline, not least the first fruits of our film and video digitisation projects, but that you'll be seing in the new year, when we will formally launch the new sound and moving image services. For now we're putting them out for a test drive - and we'd love to know what you think.

There's more information on all our moving image holdings and services on the Library's Help for Researchers pages.

05 March 2012

Words into words

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This British Library event on 'The Future of Text', held 22 September 2011, includes a talk by me on the opportunities provided by subtitle and speech-to-text searching (at 1:25:10, and you'll need to turn the volume up...)

The key term when considering what we need to do with moving images at the British is 'integration'. It turns up on every strategy document, every PowerPoint presentation, every funding application. We are not interested (primarily) in the medium for its own sake, but as it supports research in other subjects. We want researchers to search for the topic that interests them and to be able to offer them, in the one place, books, journals, newspapers, photographs, maps, websites, sound recordings ... and moving images. There should be no hierachy among the media, and the more varied and integrated an offering we can provide for researchers, the more chances there are of them finding something that surprises them, that takes their research into corners they hadn't considered.

To achieve this noble vision, we need to do two things. The first, of course, is to have the moving images. We have a growing collection of these (around 55,000 at the last count), many of them music-related since they were collected by our Sound Archive, though the collection is starting to increase in breadth. We hope to extend the number of moving image items we offer considerably through partnerships, more of which at another time.

Second is to have the tools to enable researchers to find these different media in the one place. The Library has already made a big step forward here with its new Explore the British Library catalogue, which brings a large part of our collection, including  some of the moving image collection, in the one place. Searches can be filtered by any medium, including moving image, and we'll be adding more films and video records to the catalogue over the next few months.

But having films, books, manuscripts etc. all in the one place doesn't necessarily make for equality of searching. Unless you have equally rich metadata, or catalogue records, for each medium, then - simply put - those media with more words will get more attention. As the Library delves all the more into offering full-text searching, then the moving image has to be there too, or it will get put to the sidelines once again.

We were aware of this need when we started our television and radio news recording programme, which is due to become a reading room service quite soon (more on that innovation in a later post). The service, which we are calling Broadcast News, captures subtitles from television news programmes where these are available, then translates these into word-searchable text (a considerable technical challenge, because the subtitles on your TV programmes are graphics, not text, and need to be read through a process not unlike OCR). So you can search across thousands of television news programmes through the words spoken on the screen.

This is exciting, but not all television channels come with subtitles, particularly satellite channels. Other tools are required, and this is why we are looking at speech-to-text software. Voice recognition and speech-to-text are starting to become familiar. Mobile phone apps now offer voice command features and the ability to translates voice messages into text. Speech-to-text applications are used by medical services, legal services, and the military. The great challenge is to scale such technology up to the demands of large archives. The problems are considerable. Most voice recognition packages rely on recognising one voice - your own. They struggle with alien voices, multiple speakers, unfamiliar accents, and so on. Here at the Library we have television news programmes, radio broadcasts, oral history recordings and other speech-based archives access to which would be revolutionised by an effective, and affordable, speech-to-text capability, enabling these media to be word-searchable in seconds rather than the hours it currently takes to get through some recordings.

The right solution is not going to become available overnight. Last year we successfully trialled Microsoft's MAVIS speech-to-text programme as part of our Growing Knowledge exhibition, indexing 1,000 hours of interview material and 100 hours of video news. We are now going to build on that initial experiment as part of a one-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of its Digital Transformations in Arts and Humanities theme.

The project is not about finding a technical solution per se (they already exist). Although we hope to generate up to 6,000 hours of indexed, word-searchable content (3,000 of video news, 3,000 of radio), the chief aim of the project will be to determine the value to researchers. We will be asking three main questions:

  1. How useful are the results to researchers in the arts and humanities? Speech-to-text systems cannot deliver perfect transcripts, but they are now at a stage of accuracy where they can offer a reliable, indeed liberating word-searching capability. The value of this will need to be explored with researchers in the arts and humanities. We will establish user groups working with postgraduate students in radio studies and journalism studies, testing research scenarios that focus both on the audio-visual media alone and integrated with other, text-based media.
  2. We need to understand the methodological and interpretative issues involved. Imperfect indexing by speech-to-text systems can lead to misleading results (for example, a television news programme with the words ‘new tax breaks for married couples’ was indexed by MAVIS as ‘no tax breaks for married couples’). The project will need to explore such pitfalls, to consider how best to quote and cite such recordings, how to evaluate results from audio-visual media alongside other text-based media (what is the correlation between a speech transcription and the text of a newspaper article?), and other issues.
  3. How can speech-to-text technology be adopted in UK research in a form that is readily accessible and affordable? The project will look at the various systems available and provide guidelines as to usability, affordability and sustainability.

So we are not just interested in our own needs, but in how such technologies can support research in the arts and humanities overall. We will be publishing and promoting the results of our findings at the end of the project. We are keen to hear from anyone with an interest in this area, so if this something that you know about, or have an opinion about, do get in touch. The email address is movingimage@bl.uk.

14 October 2010

Searching video, growing knowledge

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Frontpage

It's taken a while, but at long last we've been able to go public with our first digital video service. From today the British Library is showcasing its digital video management system, or Video Server, in the Growing Knowledge exhibition. Growing Knowledge is a small exhibition about the future of research, and "aims to challenge our audiences on how research is changing and ask what they want to experience from the library of the future". In practice this means presenting users with an array of mostly web-based projects which are pointing the way forward for research, with new tools, partnerships, forms of interaction, and outcomes.

Should you visit Growing Knowledge - which runs until 16 July 2011 - you will be confronted by a startlingly white room looking much like the set of a 1970s sci-fi movie (Sleeper? THX 1138? 2001: A Space Odyssey? - you take your choice). There is a browsable 19th century panorama on a surface table and an ingenious 3-D object viewer to distract your attention, but the main business is at four 'pods', which offer different arrangment of screens and and some particularly comfortable chairs at which to test the resources on offer. There are twenty-five of them, most of which you can also test online through the Growing Knowledge website. One that you can test onsite only (owing to rights issues) is Video Server.

 Resultspage

What we are offering is BBC television news pogrammes which we have been recording since 6 May 2010 (general election day), which you can access by searching across subtitles. This is rather more difficult than you might think, as the subtitles provided for television programmes are not text-based but graphics (bitmaps) and need to be processed through the video equivalent of optical character recognition to convert them to text. This is what Video Server does, and it makes the news programmes word searchable. Above is the results page for an individual programme (The Andrew Marr Show) showing the subtitles down the left-hand side, with the term searched for highlighted. Click on all line of text and it takes you automatically to that point in the video.

Thumbnails

Below the video player and subtitles is another clever bit - the thumbnails. It displays a thumbnail image every five, ten or fifteen seconds, and by clicking on any image it takes you to that exact point in the video. Thus the time-based medium is made word-searchable and visible in its entirety on a single page, so that the researcher can see immediately where to go within the video without having to browse through for thirty minutes or more. The potential for improved searching, and for linking up video content to other resources (especially news-based resources) through word-linkages is huge.

Workspaces

There's also a Workspaces feature, which enables you to select programmes on whatever theme you might wish to investigate and to view them all together. Eventually, when Video Server becomes a public service the workspaces will be private, accessible by personal log-in. For the purposes of the exhibition they are open to all.

Video Server is still a work in progress, and we are keen to receive feedback on its functionality and utility as a research tool. Behind the scenes we are recording more channels that just BBC 1, 2, 4, News and Parliament (which are the ones featured in the exhibition). The next stage for Video Server will be when it becomes a British Library reading room service, which should be by autumn 2011, and where we plan to make available a greater range of content. At present we are recording 13 hours of TV and 6 hours of radio per day - we hope to up this to 25 hours of TV per day quite soon. We're also aiming to add digitised video material from our non-news collections. Meanwhile we continue to test, and to add content - all new BBC programmes that we record (and we are doing so on a daily basis) will be added to the service in the Growing Knowledge exhibiton.

But what about television news programmes that don't have subtitles? What about radio and other forms of speech recording which present a huge challenge for the researcher who needs to find subjects quickly and efficiently? Well, there is another solution on display in Growing Knowledge - Audio Search. More on that in the next post.

25 March 2010

Leadbelly sings for his freedom

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Available from the Time website

This is so wonderful to see (unfortunately I can't embed so click on the link above). It's Leadbelly from The March of Time in 1935, a famous sequence from the classic American news cinemagazine in which the American folksinger gains his freedom from prison by his singing ability, recorded by folklorist John A. Lomax. It ends up with Leadbelly's music being recorded for the Library of Congress and becoming part of the US national record alongside the Declaration of Independence. OK, so it's heavily staged for the cameras in the manner typical of The March of Time, but you have to see through the stilted delivery to what is such a precious record of a great singer, a great archivist, and incidentally a special early example of a film record showing the process of archiving - and audio-visual archiving at that. Leadbelly did sing for Governor Oscar K. Adle at Angola Prison Farm, Lousiana, in 1934, but history records that he was due for early release anyway and his song has nothing to do with his gaining his freedom - though Lomax always believed that the recording had helped his cause. In the clip Leadbelly says that he was freed from prison at an earlier time after singing to the governor, and this is apparently correct - in 1925, when he was held in Huntsville, Texas.

The March of Time was produced as an adjunct to Time magazine and shown in cinemas between 1935 and 1951 (though it had existed as a radio series since 1931 and continued as a television series after 1951). It was screened in Britain, with small variations in content, including some fresh stories filmed by its British unit. Acclaimed at the time for its dynamic style and its willingness to take on challenging subjects, it is probably best known today for the parody of its hectoring style in the 'News on the March' sequence from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. The March of Time film library is now managed by HBO Archives. The essential history of the reel is Raymond Fielding's The March of Time, 1935-1951.

You can find plenty of information on Leadbelly (real name Huddie Ledbetter), with biography, photos, sound clips and much more, on the Lead Belly Foundation site.

Heads up to the Sound Archive Twitter feed for altering me to the clip.

Posted via email from Luke McKernan