A day to celebrate: World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

by Katie Scaife, project manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, Bristol Archives

Get out the bubbly! Today – 27 October – is the UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.

This year’s theme is Window on the World, and couldn’t be more apt. Through audio recordings, past voices speak again, providing a window into worlds that are often fast-disappearing.

UNESCO says:

Audio-visual archives tell us stories about people’s lives and cultures from all over the world. They represent a priceless heritage… since they reflect the cultural, social and linguistic diversity of our communities. Conserving this heritage and ensuring it remains accessible to the public and future generations is a vital goal for all memory institutions as well as the public at large. [i]

Our focus on audio heritage

Reel to reel players. Image courtesy British Library

Bristol Archives’ Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) team is proud to be conserving and preserving our shared audio heritage.

We digitise audio recordings from all over south west England; recordings that capture wildlife, music, oral history, dialects, drama, talks, and so much more.

Unfortunately, these recordings are at risk of being lost forever as the equipment to play them disappears and the materials they are made of begin to naturally decay.

Here’s a little video to show you what we mean.  Where the tape is brown, you have lovely old audio. Where it is clear, the audio is gone forever, flaked off due to age.

Sharing sounds

We’re also working to raise awareness of the importance and value of the nations’ sound heritage, and fascinate new audiences with the immediacy of sound.

  • Listen out for UOSH on the air in partnership with BCfm. Twelve citizen journalists are creating podcasts and broadcasts based on archival audio digitised and shared via UOSH.
  • Put Monday 30 November in your diary for a special online talk – Black voices from Bristol’s past by Sherrie Eugene-Hart. Featuring Black Bristol voices from Bristol Archives, digitised and made accessible by UOSH. Some of these voices have not been heard in decades.
  • The next exhibition from the British Empire & Commonweath Collection team will feature audio excerpts from oral history interviews.
  • If you’re not booked onto our Basement Tapes Day event today, that’s a shame!
  • Recordings of Bristolians recollecting the Blitz are being used to engage KS2 children in the city’s history, like this clip – Mrs Harvey recalls listening to the sound of the bombs and buildings crumbling. Bristol Libraries, A Town in the West Country audio collection; TWC30


compact cassette tapes. Image courtesy British LibraryFinally next year the UOSH team will start offering training and advice to help people care for and preserve their own archival audio collections, from large institutions like archives and museums to small personal collections. Check out our other blogs this week and find our past blogs.


Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a national project led by the British Library and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Find out more about the project.

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