Sound and vision blog

Sound and moving images from the British Library


Discover more about the British Library's 6 million sound recordings and the access we provide to thousands of moving images. Comments and feedback are welcomed. Read more

02 April 2024

Sound Heritage Today: British and Irish Sound Archives event in Glasgow on 9-10 May

Close up of a turntable stylus

Do you work with or hold sound collections? Would you like to find out more about how to preserve audio recordings, make them more accessible, and engage different audiences with them? Could you contribute to conversations about how we can collaborate across relevant sectors to better support sound heritage? If any of these questions provoke a positive response, check out the programme for BISA 2024: Sound Heritage Today in Glasgow on 9-10 May. 

Sound & Vision staff from the British Library look forward to joining others involved in—or interested in becoming more involved in — sound heritage work at what will be a practical, inspiring and useful gathering. To book your ticket, visit EventBrite. We hope to see many of you there! 

25 January 2024

Sound and Vision update

Image of a reel on a white background
The British Library is continuing to experience disruption following a cyber-attack. As with other departments, access to the sound archive’s resources, and the services we are able to offer, have been affected. Most online systems, such as the Sound and Moving Image catalogue and the Sounds website, are currently unavailable. At present, we do not have any information that suggests material archived in the sound archive has been affected.

Teams across the Library are working hard to restore our systems and services and we will be making regular updates on our recovery via our temporary website, the Knowledge Matters blog and our social media channels. Please follow @BritishLibrary for updates. 

The Library buildings are still open as usual, and Wi-Fi is now available again at both sites. The Sound and Vision Reference Team are open for your enquiries, but are not currently able to offer any access to our material through the Listening and Viewing service. Please use the email address given at the foot of this post. 

What is currently available? 

Visitors to our London site may enjoy the Sound Gallery on the Lower Ground Floor. This resource features a range of recordings drawn from all areas of the sound archive, including music, poetry and prose, oral history, accents and dialects, and animal sounds and natural environments. 

Our SoundCloud account is still live and features a selection of 1000+ spoken word, wildlife and music recordings including our podcast series ‘Classical Music at the British Library’. 

The British Library Sound Archive programmes archived on the website of online radio NTS feature hundreds of wildlife and world and traditional music sound recordings from our collection.

The True Echoes web site showcases the recordings and research undertaken between 2019 and 2022 for the True Echoes research project. This project sought to reconnect a rich archive of early sound recordings of Oceanic cultures with the communities from which they originate. 

Contacting us 

You can contact us by emailing [email protected]. We’ll do our best to answer your queries but please bear with us. This inbox is reviewed from 08.30 to 16.30 Monday to Friday. We’re experiencing a high volume of enquiries so it may take us some time to respond. We’ll get back to you as quickly as we can. 

We would like to thank all our friends, users and partners for your continued patience and understanding. 

30 October 2023

Recording of the week: Things that go howl in the night

Illustration of a gray wolf, 1912
public domain

With Halloween creeping up on us, I asked our wildlife curator to share with me her favourite spooky sounds. I’ve heard screeching barn owls. Hissing rattlesnakes. My favourite though: the chorus of howling wolves, recorded in Ontario, Canada in 2000.  

Listen to howls of the Gray Wolf

There’s something both serene and terrifying about the howl of a wolf. The wail floats on the edge of liminality: being both from the human world, yet also otherworldly. The calls mesmerise you – drawing you in, whilst making you want to retreat at the same time. They’re the epitome of the sublime.  

On this recording, I particularly liked how bird song is seamlessly dispersed among the howling at the beginning. You can almost picture dusk falling over the forest with the last birds of the day fleeing, before the creatures of the night ascend their sylvan thrones.  It conjures up that cinematic image of a majestic wolf pack in silhouette against a full moon. Contrary to popular imagination though, our wildlife expert informs me that it’s pure myth that wolves howl at the moon!  

As foreboding as the howls may be to the human ear, for the wolves, they’re a chorus of unity as they call out to their fellow pack-mates to prepare for their nocturnal hunt. Even the pups can be heard with their squeaky howls joining in with their parents.  

You can listen to a longer version of this recording on our sounds website

This week’s recording of the week was chosen by Elliot Sinclair, Web Editor.