The Story of Sound: The Talking Machine

Whether it was rushing to Woolworth’s to bag the latest CD, patiently recording songs off the radio onto compact cassette tape, or seeking through the slick sleeves of vinyl at a local record store, the analogue formats of recorded sound that pre date today’s digital era hold a special place in the hearts of those that have experienced them. While some would never turn back to the old methods in the wake of endless streaming services, others swear by their favourite analogue devices.

But what, I hear you ask, was the first method for storing recorded sound? This is a question that whisks us far away from today’s digital technology, taking us right back to the earliest recorded words, which marked the beginning of what would turn into nearly 200 years’ worth of captured sound.

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A Luxury London Retreat: The Journal of Margaret Howes

Margaret Howes was approaching eleven years when she recounted her vibrant experience in London during the September of 1855 (NRO, MC 340/7, 710×9). After travelling from Norwich through Cambridgeshire, and sightseeing in the cities of Ely and Cambridge, Margaret, accompanied by her parents Mr and Mrs Howes, her sister Edith and her Grandmother, finally arrived in the bustling capital. In her journal she talks of her experiences of visiting the Crystal Palace 4 years after the Great Exhibition and describes feeding the animals at London Zoo.

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Smells like 1666!

Amongst the millions of documents held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), those connected with probate provide an insight into the homes and workplaces of the county’s citizens.

The inventory of the ‘Goods and Chattles of Robt Wales late Grocer of Norwich’, (NRO, DN/INV 53b/120), is dated 18th April 1666. This was just five months before London goes up in flames and Norwich is experiencing the last recorded visit of the Plague. The parish registers for the city demonstrate the deaths of those unfortunates who succumb.

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Volunteering with Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

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.

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What happened to Eugenia Zagajewska: discovering the story behind a name on a grave

The military section of Earlham cemetery contains graves of war victims of many nationalities, including even some German graves.  Two in the Polish section of eleven graves have always intrigued me: those of Wladislaw Slizewski and Eugenia Zagajewska.  Both died on the same day 22 April 1946, suggesting some kind of tragic incident (both were just 21 years old), and the ‘-a’ endings of the second name show that the deceased was a woman, very unusual on a military commemoration. (I know of only one other  example in the whole of Britain of a female Polish military grave).

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'Conscientious and promising nurse' to 'Appeared to lack brain and interest': Comments found in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital Nurses’ Registers (1900-1928)

Nurses’ Registers can be a useful historical source for those researching their family history or nursing training. They can also provide a fascinating insight into the lives and personalities of the people who worked there.

Nurse Training

In the early twentieth century, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (NNH) was one of many hospitals offering training in return for free nursing care. It ran a three year certificated course and introduced a four year course in 1904. Dora Mary Bryant was the first nurse at the NNH to join under the 4 years system (NRO Ref, NNH 114/1).

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Conserving the Richard Bright Collection

Dr Richard Bright is a key figure in the history of medicine and intellectual life, famous for his work in nephrology and discovery of Bright’s disease, but also active in other areas, including natural history, geology, anthropology and travel. Bright was a notable figure on the London medical scene and was particularly active at Guy’s Hospital.

The Bright paper collection held at the Norfolk Record Office (MC 166/299, 633X7-8) consists of approximately 850 individual manuscripts and 13 notebooks containing about 830 pages in total. These items, housed in two boxes, date from 1808 to 1858 and were either written by or received by Richard Bright. Together they chart the early years of Bright’s career as a doctor and author.

Grants received from the Wellcome Trust, the National Manuscript Conservation Trust, and from other generous donors has enabled the NRO to carry out the conservation treatments.

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Royal Greenwich Observatory

The ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ Project has received many collections for digitisation since it began. One such collection is the sound archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO), currently housed within the Cambridge University Archives. This collection has a vast range of interviews and recordings that give an insight into the work of RGO, its employees, and its history. In it you will find interviews with some famous names in astronomy, including Sir Richard Woolley and Sir Bernard Lovell who both served the position of Astronomer Royal. In addition to well-known names, the collection has interviews with a wide range of staff of the Observatory and from it we can get a first-hand glimpse into the history and changes that RGO went through over the years.

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