Sound and vision blog

5 posts from April 2011

21 April 2011

New interviews added to 'Oral history of British science'

Elspeth Millar, Oral History Archive Assistant, writes:

Eminent-scientists Further interviews from the National Life Stories project An Oral History of British Science, have been uploaded to ASR as streamed audio and are available to a worldwide audience via the ‘Oral history of British science’ package.  These newest interviews are with Professor Andy Hopper, Roy Gibson, Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes, Professor John Nye, Professor Dan McKenzie, Dr John Glen, John Kington, Professor Stephen Moorbath and Sue Vine.  Further interviews will be added over the next few months and up-to-date information on the project, including reflections from the interviewers, can be found on the History of Science blog. 

In addition, interviews with Professor Maurice Wilkins and Sir Aaron Klug, which were previously only accessible to those in UK Higher Education institutions, are now accessible as streamed audio worldwide.  These interviews were undertaken for the NLS projects Leaders of National Life and NLS: General, are were part of the original Archival Sound Recordings project, which aimed to increase access to the Library's sound archives through digitisation and online access. 

13 April 2011

The BFI and the British Library

I'm delighted to be able to report the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the British Film Institute and the British Library.

The objective of the MoU is to increase public, professional and research access to audiovisual and broadcast content and integrating it with other knowledge collections. Integrating moving images with other media to enhance the research experience is central to the British Library's moving image plans. We don't need to build a new moving image archive for ourselves if there are constructive and mutually supportive ways in which we can work with existing moving image collections, and although we do have a modest moving image collection and plans to increase our moving image capabilities through a particular focus on news, the main target is to work with external collections. To this end we signed an MoU with the BBC in 2009 (as did the BFI earlier that year), the fruits of which we hope to be able to demonstrate to researchers in the not too distant future.

The MoU has been signed by BFI Director, Amanda Nevill and British Library CEO, Dame Lynne Brindley. It outlines key areas for joint strategic thinking, including public access, rights management and digitisation. Through a joint steering committee we will be exploring such areas as:

  • collecting policies;
  • contributing to IPR (intellectual property rights) and copyright discussions;
  • metadata and resource discovery;
  • how new digital technologies and enhanced physical spaces can improve access to film and television content;
  • digital and paper conservation;
  • exhibitions and public programmes;
  • and how both institutions can offer services for the creative industries.

It takes time to develop successful relationships between such organisations, and any fruits from such an understanding may take a while to grow. However, we will not be starting from square one. Over the past year, our two organisations have been collaborating as members of the UK Sound & Vision Collections group, convened in 2010 by the BFI to look at national audio-visual collection policy. A letter from the group announcing its formation was recently sent to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. Other group members comprise the BBC, the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, the National Media Museum, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and National Museums Northern Ireland.

To have these bodies all sitting around the same table discussing how best to collect, care for and make accessible the UK audio-visual heritage (sound and moving image, please note) is not insignificant. Researchers of any kind have a right to expect good things from such a coming together, and it is our duty to live up to such expectations. Having the BFI and the British Library sign up to their own understanding is an important stage in what promises to be an exciting process.

Keep watching the screens.

British Library press release

British Film institute press release

Early wildlife recordings

Cheryl Tipp, Wildlife Sounds Curator, writes:

Early-wildlife-recordingsA new collection of species and habitat recordings from the first half of the 20th century have recently been added to the Environment and Nature category on Archival Sound Recordings. The majority of these recordings were originally released on gramophone records, presented in box sets and accompanied by illustrated literature that provided the listener with information about the animals they were hearing, possibly for the very first time.

 Ludwig Koch is described as being the father of wildlife sound recording and many of his recordings are featured in Early Wildlife Recordings. Born in Frankfurt on November 13th 1881, Koch made his first animal sound recording at the age of 8 when his father presented him with an Edison Phonograph and box of wax cylinders. This simple gift ignited a passion for wildlife sound recording that was to last a lifetime. Significant publications from Koch included Songs of Wild Birds (1936), More Songs of Wild Birds (1937) and Animal Language (1938), all of which are included in this collection.

'Songs of wildbirds' record cover

Another pioneer field recordist was the self-taught Danish ornithologist Carl Weismann. During his lifetime, Weismann recorded a wealth of material and published a number of recordings on his own record label. The recordings selected for inclusion in this compilation were taken from Weismann’s original archive discs which are now held by the British Library.

There are many more examples of early published wildlife recordings that will be added to this initial selection in due course. Highlights will include the first commercially available wildlife record (Carl Reich’s ‘Actual Bird Record made by a Captive Nightingale’) which dates back to 1910 and a series of speciality publications featuring wildlife sounds incorporated into traditional musical pieces such as ‘Londonderry Air’ and ‘The First Noel’.

11 April 2011

Between Two Worlds: Poetry and Translation

Stephen Cleary, Lead Curator, Drama and Literature Recordings, writes:


Poetry readings recorded for the British Library project Between Two Worlds are now available to listen to online. There are 30 poets featured, and more than 20 hours of audio in total.

Between Two Worlds aimed to record poets domiciled in the UK who are either bilingual or whose first language is not English. The poets were recorded in the British Library studio or in their own homes reading a selection of their poems, in English or in the language of composition, often with an English translation.

Britain is a multicultural place and that fact is very evident in the world of poetry. With this project the Library wanted to record for posterity a wide range of poets who would together exemplify that multiplicity of diverse voices and backgrounds.

The poets read in Russian, Chinese, Urdu, Punjabi, Kurdish, Welsh, Spanish, Hindi, Hungarian, Arabic, Persian, Polish, Mauritian Creole and other languages.

Countries of origin included Hungary, Turkey, Tatarstan, Iran, India, Chile, Pakistan, UK, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Southern Kurdistan (Iraq), Mexico, Bulgaria, China, Ukraine, Russia and Poland.

Poet Amarjit Chandan, who suggested the idea for the project and became the Library’s collaborator in realizing it, said: ‘The project gave me an opportunity to come closer to my fellow poets of different tongues and cultures, sharing our life and creative experiences of post-war literary Britain’.

You can find an essay from Amarjit, a downloadable learning pack for use in schools, and, of course, the poetry recordings themselves at:


08 April 2011

The Writing Life: Authors Speak podcasts

Sarah O'Reilly, project interviewer for Authors' Lives writes:

Extracts from the oral history collection Authors’ Lives have recently been published on a 2-disc CD, ‘The Writing Life: Authors Speak’. One of the most difficult tasks in putting the CD together was to boil down the hundreds of hours of interviews we had in the archive into two 70-minute CDs. And seeing as those interviews covered all aspects of the writer’s life – from what may make someone grow up to be a writer, to their experience of the writing process and the things that inspire them, to the changes they may have witnessed over the last half century to the way in which books are written, published and read – we had a job deciding which aspect of the writer’s life the CD should focus on.

In the end we felt that a CD which could shed some light on the creative process would be of most interest to listeners, and the most straightforward way of handling the heterogenous material within the collection. Because though we may know as readers what it is to live with (or should that be through?) a book, we probably don’t know much about the writer’s experience of the creative process, let alone their values, inspirations and perceptions of their craft. And how much do we understand about the way in which a writer’s life may be put into the service of their work? We hope ‘The Writing Life: Authors’ Speak’ will shed some light on these mysterious areas.

A BL podcast on ‘The Writing Life: Authors Speak’ can be found here.  To hear three interviewees – Philip Hensher, Hilary Spurling and Michael Frayn - discussing their writing lives in a recent event in the Library Conference Centre, click here.  The interviews within the Authors' Lives archive can be browsed on the Sound Archive catalogue by searching with the collection reference number C1276.