The British Library Sound Archive
(formerly the British Institute of Recorded Sound
) in London
is one of the largest collections of recorded sound in the world, including music
, spoken word and ambient recordings.
It holds more than three million recordings, including over a million discs and 200,000 tapes. These include commercial record releases, chiefly from the UK
, but with some from overseas, radio broadcasts (many from the BBC Sound Archive
) and privately-made recordings.
The history of the Sound Archive can be traced back to 1905, when it was first suggested that the British Museum
should have a collection of audio recordings of poets and statesmen. The Gramophone Company
started donating metal masters
of audio recordings in 1906 (on the basis that records would wear out), with a number of donations being made up until 1933. These recordings included some by Melba
, and others of Lev Tolstoy
, Ernest Shackleton
, Herbert Beerbohm Tree
and Lewis Waller
. A number of shellac pressings
were also donated in the period 1920-50.
In 1955, Patrick Saul
founded the British Institute of Recorded Sound
, after realising that material was in danger of being lost as the British Museum did not maintain a comprehensive archive. The Institute was located in a property owned by the British Museum in Russell Square
(with rent and rates guaranteed by Robert Mayer
), and supported by a donation from the Quaker
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