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Unlocking our Sound Heritage


Major National Lottery funding boost enables The National Library of Wales to partner with the British Library and a new national network on a ground-breaking audio preservation project

The British Library is today launching Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, a major £18.8 million preservation and access project, which has received a £9.5 million National Lottery grant. The funding will enable the formation of the first ever national network of ten sound preservation centres, including The National Library of Wales. This network will now come together with the British Library to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings that are threatened by physical degradation or stored on formats that can no longer be played.  

These recordings tell a rich story of the UK’s diverse history through traditional, pop and world music, drama and literature readings, oral history, regional radio, and wildlife sounds from around the country. The Welsh material will include interviews with Welsh migrants to North America and Patagonia, dialect recordings, interviews with various industry workers, their families and the community, archives of Welsh traditional music and political speeches by national politicians.

National Lottery funding will enable The National Library of Wales to work with the British Library to preserve Wales’ own unique and rare national sounds and develop a range of engagement activities to connect the wider public with their sound heritage.

A vital element of Unlocking Our Sound Heritage will be an interactive website hosted by the British Library, allowing listeners to explore a wide selection of recordings. This website is scheduled to go live in 2019.

Linda Tomos, Chief Executive and Librarian of The National Library of Wales said:

“This is great news for sound collections in Wales. The National Library is delighted to be part of this important project and is grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support in making this project possible. This project will significantly contribute towards developing skills, providing training and preserving our sound heritage.”

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said:

 “We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and all our supporters for recognising the urgent need to save these rare, unique recordings from around the UK. The British Library is the home of the nation’s sound archive, and we are delighted that this funding will help us preserve our audio heritage for people to explore and enjoy.”

Ilse Assmann, president of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) said:

“IASA recognises that a significant part of the world’s cultural heritage is captured in the form of sound recordings. These are threatened by decay and media obsolescence and unless something is done urgently, many recordings will be lost and unavailable for access by future generations. The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project is a fine example being set to secure and make accessible the sound heritage held in UK archives.”

Editor’s Notes

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, Headley Trust, the British Library Trust and the American Trust for the British Library and other kind donors.

For more information contact: Elin-Hâf 01970 632471 or
British Library’s Save Our Sounds

About The National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales is the largest library in Wales and serves as the nation's memory. It is the home of Wales’ Screen and Sound Archive.  As a legal deposit library, around 4,000 new publications are collected every week that add to the National Library's collection of:

  • 6 million books and newspapers
  • 950,000 photographs
  • 60,000 works of art
  • 1.5 million maps
  • 7 million feet of film
  • 40,000 manuscripts
  • 250,000 hours of video
  • 1,900 cubic metres of archives

The National Library of Wales provides services either by visiting the Library in Aberystwyth or accessing its resources and services on-line. The Library also delivers activities in communities across the whole of Wales and works in partnership with local authorities, education advisors, and individual organisations and schools with the aim of ensuring that as many people in Wales as possible can benefit from the Library’s rich collections.

About the British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.
The British Library is home to the UK’s Sound Archive, a treasure trove of living history containing more than 6.5 million sounds including music, spoken word, oral history, wildlife and the environment dating back to the birth of recorded sound in the 19th century. Discover more and listen at

About the HLF

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery