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FE community will benefit from British Library’s “groundbreaking” new online resource<

A free online resource will offer students, researchers and academics access to thousands of hours of rare and historic sound recordings.

The British Library yesterday launched the new Archival Sound Recordings (ASR) in partnership with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

JISC has helped fund the £1m project, which is part of a £10m programme promoting the digitisation of content such as sound, moving pictures and journals for the Further and Higher Education communities in the UK.

Sir Ron Cooke, Chairman of JISC, said: “The scale and scope of this archive is ambitious, groundbreaking and truly exciting. Not only will it be an important resource to a wide range of disciplines and subject areas but also, we believe, a landmark for the use of sound recordings in education and research”.

Highlights of the archive, which is accessible to any web user, include unique recordings of East and South African music and cultural activities; the story of six decades of jazz in the UK, as told by musicians, promoters and label owners, and a comprehensive archive of performances of Beethoven string quartets.

The website’s interface is designed to facilitate retrieval and playback of the recordings, although access to the audio content is limited to password-holders of the UK HE and FE communities.

“This was a particularly challenging and complex project,” said Michel Merten, Director of Mammon Audio Archiving Services, who carried out the digitisation work for ASR. “We worked with some very delicate collections, ranging from African field recordings on fragile magnetic tapes to Beethoven String quartets on early 78rpm discs”.

“To handle a project of this scale, we developed innovative new techniques with the British Library, enabling us to preserve these important cultural records for future generations”, he added.

Annabel Hardy.

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