In addition to books, the British Library also archives sounds – a lot of them. With recordings of everything from sound effects and Florence Nightingale speaking, to local dialects and recordings of theatre productions, it's a literal treasure trove of sonic gems that's facing a potential slide into obsolescence and decay.


Because many of these sounds (around a third of the collection, numbering approximately two million recordings) have arrived from many different eras of the UK's history, meaning the media on which they have been recorded is very mixed. There are wax cylinders, minidiscs and cassette tapes, and all of these physical media are, of course, at risk physical degradation.

Part of the money, £18 million, is needed to digitise the collection before the physical vessels become too badly worn to be of any use to anybody. That's the priority. Then the rest of collection least at risk (I'm assuming vinyl and CDs) would be digitised using the remainder of the money.

£22 million would be spent coming up with a system to ensure future sounds are archived. BBC News have estimated that 92% of the UK's radio output is not being archived, whilst published music stands at around 65-70% unarchived. Preserving this for the future is important.

The British Library is also asking the public to tip them off about any rare recordings that may not be in their archives. In this, and many other ways, you can support the institution – go here to learn how you can support the British Library. I reckon they should set up a Kickstarter page.