Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mapping Historic Sounds at the British Library

An unanticipated effect of the digital turn in history is a resurgence of historical geography. Maps are a visual organization scheme that everyone understands instantly. And tools like Google Maps make it easy to display metadata in a geographic format.

A beautiful example of this trend is the Archival Sound Recordings page at the British Library has a neat feature--several series of sound recordings mapped on a Google map so you can explore the collections geographically, based on where each recording was made. "Explore selected collections of spoken word, and human and natural environments using our interactive maps," the library promises.

Pictured is a screen shot of the Accents and Dialects sound map, featuring "700 recordings from the Millennium Memory Bank and the Survey of English Dialects." Clicking on a balloon brings a popup with information about the interviews available from that location. Clicking on an interview description takes you to a new window with an audio player and metadata. Also available in this mapped format are wildlife and soundscape recordings from Britain, music from India and Uganda, and a whole mess of noisy frogs.

You can read more about the Archival Sound Recording Project here or on the project blog. This post comes via the JISC Digitisation blog.


jacobite said...

Henry Higgins would be so proud! "There even are places where English completely disappears/in America they haven't used it for years."

Larry Cebula said...

Hah. I would love it if the oral interviews spanned the whole Anglophone world, from Karachi to Belmopan to South Africa to Mississippi. But you go to the web with the collection you have, not with the collection you wish you had.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog through the Twitter account I set up for restoration of the Whatcom Territorial Courthouse in Bellingham. This is a great site. Will direct students towards it when I teach NW history and just for myself.

We had so many British voices on Bellingham Bay when we were settled. I'd love to capture that for the public when the building is open to the public again.

Larry Cebula said...

Historyweaver: Of course the lost, pre-recording technology voices would be interesting. Over here in the eastern part of the state many communities had German and other European accents well into the 20th century. And of course various Hispanic, Asian and Russian accents are common today.

Craig said...

A friend of mine from Gig Harbor took his degrees in English and Biology to Australia where he established the first marimba band in the land down under. The first and last cuts on his first album featured lots of Zimbabwean frogs. The British Library seems partial to frogs from Zambia and Tanzania.