Digitizing Reels of History

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The British Library says it has a window of 15 years to preserve an invaluable cache of sound recordings, but unless fundraising can help pick up the pace, the archives could take as many as 48 to complete. The artifacts represent a range of obsolete formats, some of them long dead; from wax cylinders of Florence Nightingale to open reel recordings of children’s songs, and of course countless classic author interviews and readings. NPR has shared a few of the new digital files, including James Joyce reading Ulysses and a bizarre but charming recording of George Bernard Shaw instructing listeners on how to calibrate their phonographs.


Dinah Fay is a poet, copywriter, and social media maven living in Brooklyn. She is the co-host of the Brick City Speaks reading series in Newark, where she is pursuing an MFA in writing from Rutgers University. More from this author →