Survey of Scotland’s Sound Archives

This guest post comes from Mairead MacDonald. Here she tells us about a project to create a national sound archive for Scotland and how you can get involved:

Many of you will have been contacted over the last few weeks and asked to complete a survey about your sound archives.  This is part of pilot project run by the National Library of Scotland which ultimately aims to set up a national sound archive for Scotland.

Most of us are deluged with emails and filling in online surveys can seem like a bit of a drag – so why should you bother with this one?

Well, the idea behind the project is to create a distributed national sound archive, with a small team providing digital access to content, while the original archives remain with their current owners. As a starting point, we are trying to find out as much as possible about all the archives held in or about Scotland.

I work for the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches project and we’ve become involved because of our experience in setting up our website of recordings from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), BBC and National Trust.

Working on the sound archive survey has been extremely interesting, providing an opportunity to talk to archive holders of all shapes and sizes.  The range of material has been fascinating too. While oral history and music of all types are the most frequently named categories, we’ve also been told about medical recordings, poetry readings, lectures, school lessons, storytelling and sound reels  accompanying  films.  We’ve had responses from all parts of Scotland, from Shetland to the Borders and from the Western Isles to Aberdeenshire. Some of the archives are held in large national institutions while others are small collections cared for by volunteers.

Sound archive by Andy Powell on Flickr

We now have around 60 responses but are keen to get many more and will be keeping the survey open for several months in order to gather as much information as possible.  As well as helping to inform the next stage of the pilot, the information gathered could form the basis of a register of sound archives and help to develop a community of archive holders, all contributing to a dispersed national archive. It’s an exciting prospect!

The whole project is still at a very early stage and a lot of work (and funding!) will be needed to bring it to fruition. Meantime, if you haven’t yet completed a survey, please go to and add your details to the list.  If you’d like more information you can contact me on or by phone on 01471 888600.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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