Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Find out more about the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project in association with the British Library

National Museums NI is currently participating in Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, a UK-wide project that will help save the nation’s sound collections and open them up to everyone.

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the British Library, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage aims to digitally preserve almost half a million endangered sound recordings from across the UK and make 100,000 of these available online.

These recordings are at risk because they are held on formats that are physically degrading and the equipment required to play them is no longer produced. Professional consensus internationally is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save these collections, before they become unreadable and are effectively lost.







© Amy Hamill 

National Museums NI is one of ten hubs working across the UK to preserve these unique sound recordings. Between 2018 and 2021, we will digitise 5,000 recordings from our own collection, and from other collections within our area.

This work is taking place at Cultra, the home of National Museums NI’s sound archive. A remarkable resource, the sound archive contains an extensive collection of recordings spanning transport, industry, crafts, folklore, language, traditional music and song. 








© Amy Hamill  

Can you help?

We would like to make a proportion of the recordings that we digitise available online, on a new website dedicated to the project. To do this we need to get in touch with rights holders to obtain the relevant copyright permissions.

If you, or any of your family members, remember being recorded or interviewed by the museum at any stage over the years, please contact the team at [email protected].







 © Amy Hamill   

Volunteer with us

Volunteers will play a vital role in contributing to Unlocking Our Sound Heritage. Throughout the course of the project, we will have a range of volunteering opportunities in the following areas:

  • Cataloguing

Collating and reviewing supporting documentation, producing digital tape summaries and transcripts and cross-referencing catalogue records to ensure accuracy of content.

  • Rights Clearance

Carrying out research which will assist with tracing rights holders, listening to sound recordings to identify potentially sensitive content and keeping a log of any actions taken.

  • Learning and Engagement

Helping to engage a variety of audiences with sound recordings being digitised as part of the project through creative workshops, online educational resources and public events.







 © Amy Hamill  

If you would like more information about volunteering, please contact the team at [email protected].

Learning and Engagement

Our learning and engagement programme will include several key activities over the next three years:

  • Working with artists and community partners to produce new creative works inspired by sounds preserved as part of the project.
  • Co-producing digital resources with schools, including an educational pack and a teachers’ resource.
  • Delivering educational sessions to higher education students.








 © Amy Hamill  

Save Our Sounds

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is part of the British Library’s Save Our Sounds programme.





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