Archive Hour - Marie Slocombe and the BBC Sound Archive
When BBC secretary Marie Slocombe was told to clear out a pile of old records in the late 1930s, she was dismayed to find items featuring the voices of George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and GK Chesterton among those lying on the floor. In this programme, radio historian Sean Street reflects on how Marie Slocombe's decision to keep and organise those early recordings laid the foundations for the BBC's archive, now one of the most significant broadcast collections in the world.
Tasked with designing a cataloguing method for her embryonic library, Marie Slocombe rejected the more traditional Dewey system for a bespoke structure more suited to the world of radio and based on that used at the US Library of Congress in Washington DC. The result was a formidable arrangement of cards placed on circular metal racks that came to be known in Broadcasting House as the 'iron curtain'.