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Unlocking Our Sound Heritage – an Exciting New Project You Could Be Part Of!

Posted on 05.02.2021

Around 600 sound recordings, carefully selected from Manx National Heritage (MNH) Library and Archives, are set to be digitised and made available online thanks to the ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ (UOSH) project, a UK wide project to preserve and provide access to thousands of rare and unique sound recordings. These recordings have become at risk as the equipment required to play them is no longer produced; engineers who know how to repair the playback machines are now also few and far between. In addition to this, the physical formats that the recordings are held on are themselves deteriorating and becoming unplayable. Professionals have estimated that we only have 15 years left to digitise and save these recordings before they become too eroded and are thus lost forever. In total, the objective is to preserve around half a million recordings from all around the British Isles, 100,000 of which will be made available online.

The UOSH project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the British Library. The 10 institutions taking part in this project are National Museums Northern Ireland, Archives+ in Manchester, Norfolk Record Office, National Library of Scotland, University of Leicester, The Keep in Brighton, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, National Library of Wales, London Metropolitan Archives and Bristol Culture.

For me, one of the best reasons to take part in this project is that stories of the ‘traditional’ Manx way of life, Manx mythology and Manx folklore are being preserved for future generations to listen to and learn about. There are a mixture of recordings provided by MNH, some in the Manx language and some in English, ranging from the early 1900s through to the 2000s.

A number of the recordings provided by MNH have already been digitised by a great team at National Museums Northern Ireland, which have been sent back over to us for cataloguing. So far the team here have listened to a variety of recordings, ranging in content from thatching methods in Sulby, the repercussions of stealing a dishcloth from another fishing ship and Tynwald Day celebrations.

Jude Dicken, Collections Information Manager for MNH said:

“Recordings cared for by Manx National Heritage Library and Archives were couriered in early October to National Museums Northern Ireland, Belfast, one of ten hubs working across the UK to preserve these unique sound recordings…Digitising means we can continue to protect the original recordings whilst enabling everyone to listen online, or in our reading room at the Manx Museum, the voices – to name but a few – of the last Manx native speakers; recollections of the Second World War; first-hand memories of working in the island’s busy guest houses; and the recorded atmosphere of the last night of Bushy’s Brew Pub, Douglas on 9 January 1998.” 

Donal McAnallen, Project Manager for the Unlocking Our Sound Archive Project at National Museums Northern Ireland said:

“Between 2018 and 2021, we will digitise 5,000 recordings from our own collection, and from collections of other heritage institutions including Manx National Heritage.  The sound archive forms a vital part of the nations’ collective memory and tells a rich story of the diverse history of the UK.

However, sound items are under threat, both from physical degradation, and as the means of playing them disappear from production. Professional consensus internationally is that time is running out to save many of our sound collections”.

The overall project is increasing awareness and enjoyment of sound today, while safeguarding the UK’s long-term capacity to care for and use audio collections.  It has already preserved over 200,000 rare and at-risk sound recordings and is digitising more and more everyday.

If you’re a good listener and can help us unlock the Isle of Man’s sound heritage, we will soon be looking for  ‘Listening Volunteers’. The important job of these volunteers will be to aid us in listening to and recording what is in these sound files. If this is something you could be interested in then please get in touch with us at uosh@mnh.im

We’re excited to keep working on this project and listening to the digitised sound files. Who knows what we will learn about next from these recordings!

 

Katie Clugston
Digital Collections Assistant
Manx National Heritage

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