British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

BBC Archive pioneers

(Image: oxyman)

BBC Broadcasting House (Image: oxyman)

Archive pioneers: early days of the BBC Sound Archive

To coincide with UNESCO’s World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, BBC Archive has released a small collection profiling the Corporation’s own archive pioneers. The collection includes broadcasts and some recordings never before released in full. The BBC was nearly ten years old when it installed its first recording machine, but tapes and discs soon began to pile up in Broadcasting House. The collection profiles some ‘heroes of heritage’, who explain how and why they set about collecting and organising voices and sounds in the 1930s and 40s. Pioneers can be heard discussing their recording subjects, from key historical speeches to records of local traditions they thought might soon die out. The collection spotlights Ludwig Koch, whose collection of audio items catalogued since childhood were later acquired by the BBC to establish a library of natural history, and the prescient actions of secretary Marie Slocombe who laid the foundations for one of the most significant audio archives in the world.

A small gallery also pictures the lengths producers went to to create authentic sound effects in live broadcast formats, and features pictures of the earliest pieces of kit used to capture audio for posterity.

To visit the collection, go to:

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