Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a UK wide project chaired by the British Library to preserve the nation’s sound archives. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) has ten project hubs around the country, working to digitise and catalogue at-risk and historically significant analogue audio collections. Norfolk Record Office is proud to have been selected as the East of England UOSH hub, its dedicated UOSH team working to preserve audio collections from organisations and individuals across the eastern counties.
The East of England UOSH hub at Norfolk Record Office is extremely grateful for the hard work and commitment of its team of volunteers, who provide invaluable support towards the cataloguing process. 42 wonderful volunteers contribute their time towards the project, listening to newly digitised audio collections in full at Norfolk Record Office. The volunteers produce summaries of the content of each sound recording, marking sensitivities, and noting highlights. This crucial step in the process allows our cataloguers to use the summaries to effectively support their work, improving the efficiency of the overall process.
Isobel McManus and Eloise Prichard, Masters students studying at the University of East Anglia, have each written about their experiences of volunteering on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project:
“My name is Eloise and I am currently an MA Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies student at the University of East Anglia.
I was interested in volunteering for the UOSH project because I had never had the opportunity to work with audio archives before and it was a type of conservation work that I knew very little about.
I started with the project in January 2019 and have been able to flexibly undertake it alongside my university studies, something that I have appreciated and that has made the sessions interesting and stress free. Since starting to volunteer with UOSH, I’ve been lucky enough to listen to a huge variety of recordings. These have included recordings from the sound archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which are currently housed within the Cambridge University Archives (although I must admit, I did not understand all of the technical references completely!). I particularly enjoyed listening to a collection in March/April of 2019, which contained interviews with Norfolk farmers discussing their animals and crops. This was a world that I was entirely unfamiliar with, but by the end of the interviews I felt like I could have probably run a semi-successful farm!
More recently the interviews that I have listened to have been an hour or longer in length, and this has given me a chance to work on my ability to extract relevant information and to write brief, succinct synopses about the audio clips. I’ve found that volunteering for UOSH has helped my study skills, which has indisputably been an added benefit.
I am so glad that I applied to be a UOSH volunteer, it has been a really enjoyable experience, and has allowed me to meet new people from all over Norfolk who share an interest in heritage. I has been some of the most interesting work that I’ve done and, because of the variety of clips and random information that I now know, it always works as an interesting conversation starter! It has been incredibly rewarding to have been part of a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund”.
“My name is Isobel and I am currently an MA Landscape History student at the University of East Anglia.
I began volunteering alongside Eloise, and it was a lovely weekly outing to Norfolk Record Office each Wednesday morning. I was interested in volunteering on this project because I feel it is crucially important to preserve endangered sound archives, and because it allows me to work on something that is completely new to me.
During my time volunteering for UOSH, I have listened to a wide array of sound recordings. I have enjoyed engaging with this living social history, which has often been both touching and fascinating. Particular recordings which have stood out for me have included an account of a Second World War pilot who survived a crash landing, and a lady recounting her daily working life on Gressenhall farm, Norfolk.
In my role as a volunteer, I am responsible for logging the relevant information relating to each sound recording on a spreadsheet. This includes information such as the date of recording, the names of the interviewer/interviewee, a short synopsis of the recording, and any special observations. My attention to detail has improved, as some recordings can be over an hour, and so it is important to convert the information conveyed by the speakers into a succinct but brief overview.
I am proud to be a UOSH volunteer at Norfolk Record Office and help on this nation-wide project. I have enjoyed meeting new people whilst gaining new skills (like cataloguing) and confidence. For example, myself and Eloise had great fun attending the volunteer Christmas party in 2019. As a MA history student it has been fulfilling to contribute to a project outside of my studies.
Overall, my experience volunteering on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project has been invaluable. It has been exciting and insightful listening to living social history. I enjoy the spontaneity that each week may bring, as the content of each audio collection differs so much from week to week. It feels special to be part of a nation-wide project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. I have enjoyed using Norfolk Record Office throughout my four years of study and hope to continue to do so in the near future.”