Preserving the Sound Archive

Preserving the Sound Archive

An interview with Julia Weaver, BBC Sound Archivist

Julia Weaver, who preserves sound recordings for the BBC, tells us about everything from wax cylinders to digital files.



Within a few years of the wax cylinder being invented, there came along the flat disc, of which I've got an example here. This is a shellac disc that was invented by Berlinger. It's made from the shell of the lac beetle, which was available in South East Asia. And it was a little bit like the Betamax/VHS war that we had in the early '80s, in that obviously the two formats were now competing for the market and although the wax cylinder was a better quality recording, these discs won out because they were cheaper to produce.

Following shellac came vinyl, which was a man-made plastic disc. This was around until quite recently, really. Over the years discs evolved into many different sizes, the largest of which is this one here, which was a 16-inch disc. This is an example of a radio programme which has been recorded onto the largest disc, because at that time the BBC were broadcasting their programmes straight from disc, so they didn't want to actually turn the disc over, so they could play it just on one side. That's why the disc is so big. This is a good example of why we need to transfer our items onto new digital broadcast technology. There aren't that many decks that we can actually play this back on.

The smallest item that we've got is this one here, which was made for Queen Mary's dolls house, which actually had its own gramophone, and this played. We do have a recording of this in the archive. It is the national anthem.
(sound clip)

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