Sound and vision blog

14 posts categorized "Europeana"

13 April 2015

British wildlife recordings on the move

Over the last 2 1/2 years, we have been working alongside 25 European partners on a project that aims to enable and promote greater re-use of digitised cultural heritage resources. With its eyes focused firmly on the creative industries, Europeana Creative has facilitated the unlocking of previously restricted content and, through a series of pilots, produced apps and websites that demonstrate ways in which this material could potentially be used by the creative sector. Themed challenges were also issued to external developers, designers, artists and entrepreneurs to create viable online applications that in some way re-used cultural heritage content available through the Europeana platform. 

At the start of the project we were charged with providing access to 3000 wildlife, environmental and urban sound recordings under defined Creative Commons licenses. The first stage was to upload content to Europeana but, never ones to rest on our laurels, we also decided to provide access to as many sounds as possible through one of the most well-known audio platforms out there - SoundCloud.

The first recordings to begin the journey over to Soundcloud focus on the sounds of Britain's wildlife. Orginally presented on our website British Library Sounds, recordings featured in British Wildlife Recordings were, for most listeners, only available in a streaming capacity. Downloading was restricted to students at registered UK HE & FE institutions, thereby significantly limiting the potential for creative re-use beyond the academic sector. Now, under the auspices of Europeana Creative, these recordings are being migrated to Soundcloud and made available under CC-BY licenses. Here are just a few of the sounds that you can now download and re-use, edit however you wish:

More recordings will be added over the coming weeks so do keep an eye on the British Wildlife Recordings playlist - and if you happen to re-use some of these sounds in interesting and creative ways, do get in touch as we'd love to know!

In addition to releasing a range of sound recordings, more that 90,000 images have also been added to Europeana. Around 60,000 of these have been taken from a larger set of over 1 million public domain images released by the British Library onto Flickr Commons at the end of 2013. The rest have been drawn from the Library's Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, again under the public domain mark, but with some recommendations on access & re-use. Together, these digitised resources provide, what we hope will be, ample material for individuals working within the creative industries to re-use and draw inspiration from in a multitude of different ways.


Image taken from page 200 of 'British Ornithology; being the history, with a coloured representation of every known species of British birds'


Image taken from page 26 of 'Bonnie Bairns. Illustrated by H. Jackson. Edited by Edric Vredenburg. Verses by E. M. Chettle, etc'


Image taken from page 215 of 'Siberia in Asia: a visit to the valley of the Yenesay in East Siberia. With description of the natural history, migration of birds, etc. ... With map, etc'

Illuminated manuscript

Kings9 f. 66v: Annunciation (Miniature of the Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel. Mary sits with a book; the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. In the margin is a note from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, reading 'Be daly prove you shall me fynde / To be to you bothe lovynge and kynde.') 

28 February 2014

Europeana Sounds gets underway!

Organisations from across Europe visited the British Library on 17 - 18 February to mark the launch of the Europeana Sounds project (more information about the project). The three-year project is being coordinated by the British Library, and we were delighted to be able to welcome all the delegates who made the journey to London, braving the typically wet February weather.

Europeana_Sounds_KickOff_British Library_Elizabeth_Hunter_CCBYSA30pc
image: British Library/Elizabeth Hunter CC-BY-SA

Europeana Sounds will use innovative digital technology to improve access to some of Europe’s leading collections of sounds and related material. The event was therefore an opportunity to meet face-to-face to discuss just what sort of inventive strategies will be adopted in order to enrich the audiences’ experience of the wealth of recordings that will be made available through the project’s life-span and beyond.

Many fruitful discussions occurred over the two days. Of particular interest was the issue of licensing material in order to provide as much access as possible, whilst ensuring that content providing institutions feel that the material in their custody is sufficiently protected. Indeed, in the case of recordings of ‘traditional’ or ‘ceremonial’ music that may contain culturally sensitive material, this will need to be taken into account in the same way that legal consideration must be adhered to.

Whilst there is a great deal of expertise amongst the project partners, this sense of balance could not be achieved without an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Fortunately, we will be working with the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision and Historypin to engage different communities and to enrich the project’s metadata through crowdsourcing and edit-a-thons. In turn, this will make it easier for end-users to find what they are looking for. This focus on usability will be augmented by the development of thematic channels on the Europeana portal, and through other digital sound sharing platforms, Spotify and SoundCloud.

Those attending the meeting were reminded of the joy of listening and of discovering new sounds by the two ‘concert’ sessions, where selected partners presented recordings from their archives.

Janet Topp Fargion of the British Library selected this recording of a Sora ancestor song to illustrate the fact that although Europeana aggregates digital objects held in European institutions, the subjects may be international, reflecting the research interests of scholars and users based in Europe.

Sora ancestor song

(Recorded by Rolf Killius, Orissa, India, 2001. Source: The British Library)

Mairead Dhòmhnallach of Tobar an Dulchais presented 'Latha Dhomh ’s mi Buain a’ Choirce' as sung by Kate MacMillan. It is a recording of a traditional Gaelic, one of thousands that will be made available through Europeana thanks to the project.

Latha Dhomh ’s mi Buain a’ Choirce

(Recorded by John Lorne Campbell, Scotland, 1949. Source: The National Trust for Scotland)

Zane Grosa from the National Library of Latvia shared this recording, the only surviving work of orchestral music by Latvian composer Emils Dārziņš. He destroyed his other symphonic works after being accused of plagiarism, and ended his life when he was just 34, apparently throwing himself under the train.

Melanholiskais valsis

(Source: National Library of Latvia)

Alexander König of the Max Planck Institute for Pyscholinguistics gave us this field recording, made in the village of Tauwema in the Trobriand Islands as part of a project to document the Kilivila language. This example serves to highlight that Europeana Sounds will work with environmental and linguistic, as well as musical, material.

Tauwema Village

(Recorded by Gunter Senft, Tauwema, Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea, 2003. Source: Max Planck Institute for Pyscholinguistics)

Picture1Europeana Sounds is funded by the European Union under its ICT Policy Support Programme as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programm.

27 February 2014

London Calling

The sounds of London will soon be playing a key role in the second year of the EU funded project, Europeana Creative. The project itself seeks to encourage people working in the creative industries to re-use digitised content from some of Europe's most revered cultural institutions. The online discovery platform Europeana is at the heart of the project and features millions of items, from paintings and manuscripts to sounds and sheet music.

Panorama of the River Thames, 1730, The Wellcome Library (via Europeana)

One of the main aims of Europeana Creative is to create 5 prototypes, from educational games to teaching apps, which will demonstrate ways in which Europeana content can be transformed. The British Library and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision have delved into their respective archives and pulled out thousands of recordings for the project's Social Networks enrichment prototype. In the coming months members of the public will be invited to enhance these sounds by adding images, text and links from Europeana and beyond. One of the themes, Cityscapes, will present a selection of recordings from two crowdsourcing projects; The UK Soundmap and Sound of the Netherlands.  The cities of London and Amsterdam are the focus of the theme, partly because they received the most contributions but also because the potential for enrichment is greater - a few of the British examples include:

Spinning Wheel in Yarn Shop, Bethnal Green

Speakers Corner, Hyde Park

The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square

Tate Modern Turbine Hall, Bankside

The enrichment process will not only give added depth to the sounds but will allow the formation of mini "exhibitions", each one dedicated to a particular recording and sculpted into shape by the public.

Original sound recordings, like those featured in the prototype can offer creative minds unlimited inspiration. Field recordist and sound artist, Yiorgis Sakellariou recently created an audio montage from recordings he made across London. This piece, complete with photographs and text, demonstrates just one way in which sounds can form the basis of a creative piece of work.


Since late 2012 I am residing in London. The city is loud and almost every day my ears are exposed to high decibel levels and a cacophony of incoming sonic information. However, the more I listen to these common sounds, the more I discover the extraordinary within the ordinary, the exquisite in the everyday.

The piece consists of recordings that took place throughout 2013 on several locations in London. The urban soundscape can provide a great variety of textures, sometimes hollow, others powerful. The calm atmosphere at Tottenham Marshes, the poly-rhythmic patterns of the escalators at London Bridge tube station, ventilation drones at Chinatown, bird songs mixed with distant traffic hiss at Dulwich Park...

Listening to the city's soundscape can become a submerging experience which helps me rejoice my daily routines and discover a new and profound sonic world.

Yiorgis Sakellariou January 2014

London - Yiorgis Sakellariou (5'06")




It will be interesting to see how Europeana Creative is able to inspire new ideas, new products and new ways of approaching and re-using Europe's collective cultural heritage. Stay tuned for more news on the enrichment prototype and how you can help us build this exciting new product.


01 February 2014

Building a jukebox for Europe

We’re thrilled to announce the start this month of a new project: Europeana Sounds. This project will bring together online, for public access, over a million sound and associated digitised items from leading audio archives and libraries across Europe.

We shall double the number of sound tracks that can be discovered through Europeana, improve descriptions for two million sounds, music scores and associated items to make them easier to find, and we’ll create new thematic ‘channels’ on Europeana that bring related objects together in a coordinated way. The sounds will encompass not just musics of different genres – classical, pop and rock, traditional and folk - but also languages and dialects, oral memories, nature and environmental sounds.

Europeana Sounds will be accessed through Europeana, the portal to Europe’s digitised heritage. Through a multi-lingual interface supporting 31 languages, Europeana already connects a mind-boggling 30 million books, paintings, photographs, sounds, films, museum and archival objects from collections held by 2,200 source institutions. Sound recordings are one of the most popular media types, although representing just 2% of Europeana’s content. And while many of Europe’s leading cultural heritage institutions have large, high-quality audio collections that have great public appeal and are valued for research and for creative use, access to them is fragmented and constrained. Europeana Sounds will make audio content from memory institutions easily accessible - a much-needed gateway to Europe’s incomparably rich sound and music collections.

Coordinated by the British Library, this three-year project is led by a network of 24 European organisations: innovative digital technology organisations and leading library and archive collections of sounds and related materials. We will also collaborate with three digital distribution platforms, Historypin, Spotify and SoundCloud and their existing global online communities, to extend the public reach of Europeana’s sound recordings.

The project will additionally test innovative ways to enrich metadata by crowdsourcing and by using automated machine-driven categorisation and cross-media linking. It will align different kinds of objects from different collections:


Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing (painting by Stephanus Hendrik Willem van Trigt. Source: Teylers Museum, Netherlands, via Europeana)

Blackbird singing

Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing (recorded by Eric & May Noble, Wales, March 1991. Source: The British Library)


We’ll also experiment with ‘score following’, so you will be able to scroll music scores from collections contributed by one institution while listening to recorded performances of the same compositions from another source, as illustrated below with extracts from Johan Sebastian Bach's Wohltemperierte Clavier.


Score of Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 870 from JS Bach’s manuscript of Wohltemperierte Clavier ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’, book 2. (Source: The British Library. Add.MS 35021).


Audio recording of Prelude and fugue in C major, BWV 870
recorded example from Europeana via Helsinki City Library).


More details about the Europeana Sounds project:

Picture1Europeana Sounds is funded by the European Union under its ICT Policy Support Programme as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programm.

01 November 2013

Europeana Creative: the wildlife recordings of Lawrence Shove

In February of this year Europeana launched an exciting new project that seeks to promote and facilitate greater re-use of cultural heritage resources. Through a series of pilot applications, open innovation challenges and spin off projects, Europeana Creative will demonstrate that Europeana, an online portal which provides access to over 26 million digitised objects, can provide the creative industries with both inspiration and actual content.

The British Library is one of the project's 26 European partners and will be providing access to 3000 digital sound recordings with particular emphasis on wildlife and environmental sounds. One of the largest contributions will come from the historic collection of British wildlife sound recordist, Lawrence Shove. With an interest in both the sounds of individual species and the wider natural soundscapes of Britain, Shove soon developed a comprehensive collection of wildlife and environmental sound recordings. By the 1960s he had become one of Britain’s best known wildlife sound recordists and worked on a number of published records including Woodland Birds (Discourses, 1966) Dawn Chorus and Nightingale (Discourses, 1969).


At the moment over 450 recordings from the Lawrence Shove collection can be found in the British Wildlife Recordings section of British Library Sounds. Highlights include:

Sea coast atmosphere, Skokholm Island 1965

Blackbird song, Devon 1961

Skylark song, Devon 1966

Yellowhammer song, Devon 1966

Making these sounds and their associated metadata available through Europeana Creative will increase the visibility and awareness of this rich collection and encourage creative re-use in innovative and imaginative ways. It's been an interesting journey so far and we'll keep you posted on all the latest developments as the project progresses.

21 March 2013

Europeana Creative

Europeana Creative is an exciting new European project which will enable and promote greater re-use of cultural heritage resources by Europe’s creative industries. The project was launched at the end of February 2013 at the Austrian National Library in Vienna and will run for 30 months. The British Library is just one of 26 partners from 14 European countries with diverse backgrounds who are contributing to the project. The team includes content providing institutions with world famous collections, creative industry hubs and organisations, the tourism and education sectors, living labs, software developers and multimedia experts, as well as think tanks.


The online portal Europeana provides access to more than 26 million digitised cultural heritage objects from Europe’s libraries, museums, archives and audiovisual collections. The Europeana Creative project sets out to demonstrate that Europeana can facilitate the creative re-use of digital cultural heritage content and associated metadata. Partners will develop a number of pilot applications focused on design, tourism, education and social networks. Building on these pilots, a series of open innovation challenges will be launched with entrepreneurs from the creative industries to identify, incubate and spin-off more viable projects into the commercial sector.

The project goals will be supported by an open laboratory network (the Open Culture Lab), an on- and offline environment for experimentation with content, tools and business services, and a licensing framework where content holders can specify the re-use conditions for their material. The project will be supported by continuous evaluation and business modelling development.

The re-use of digital content is an essential part of the Digital Agenda for Europe. Several activities are already stimulating the re-use of cultural heritage in order to demonstrate the social and economic value of cultural content. With the publication of the Europeana metadata under the terms of the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) in September 2012, further development of innovative applications based on this metadata is now possible. Europeana Creative takes this a step further by facilitating re-use of the digital objects themselves.

For further information and updates, please visit Europeana Creative

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