The British Library has made 23,700 rare music and sound recordings from its massive collection, reputed to be one of the largest sound archives in the world, available for free online.
The Library announced that 2,000 hours of material — just a fraction of its entire catalogue of sound — are now available on its website.
The material represents everything from children’s skipping songs to rare recordings of Ugandan royal musicians, who stopped performing in 1966 when the country’s king was exiled.
“It’s more than putting the flesh on the bones; there are recordings that don’t exist in any other form,” the library’s curator of world and traditional music, Janet Topp Fargion, told BBC News. “They give you sound; they give actual events.
“We are being transported all over the world, back in time to different places, different cultures, different peoples.”
The oldest recordings date back to 1898 and consist of wax cylinders recorded by Cambridge professor Alfred Cort Haddon on his anthropological expedition to the Torres Straits, which lie between Australia and New Guinea.
Many are traditional British music recordings, from pub sessions, to music hall ballads, soldiers’ songs and intimate creations made in musicians’ homes.
International offerings include nose flutes being played and recordings of calypso and blues music.
The British Library Sound Archives holds more than 1 million discs and 200,000 tapes.
Link to the British Library Sound Archives