Greater Manchester Sound Archive

The Greater Manchester Sound Archive has landed at Central Library!

From today you can listen to over 1,200 copies of sound recordings on cassette, CD and mp3 at the library. You don't need an appointment - just come to the search room and make yourself comfortable.

So what's in it?

To browse the collection and find recordings have a look at the catalogue. Use the 'find' function (Ctrl-F) to search for terms of interest - most items have subject and place keywords, or you can just do a full-text search. You'll find lots of oral histories, local radio recordings and music. Anything on the spreadsheet can be listened to at the library without an appointment.

The initial offering includes oral histories include stories of places, dialects, communities, immigration, war, pastimes and industries around Greater Manchester. Some projects target places, for example the LifeTimes Salford archive and the Tameside Oral History Project. Others tackle themes like the Oldham Cotton, Curry and Commerce project and the greenroom oral history project. Search for football or Whit Walks or mills and you'll get over 100 results each.

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The musical recordings include John Barbirolli recordings, the works of the local classical musician Thomas Pitfield and a small number of live folk music recordings from the massive Paul Graney Memorial Folk Music Archive. There are bits and pieces from the huge BBC Radio Manchester collection in the initial offer but we've hardly scratched the surface, as it were. We did consider sorting out the CAPITALS on the catalogue but it is sound after all. These archives are LOUD! And they're going to get louder.

Online Access

You can listen online to:

The Future

The archives were collected by the North West Sound Archive, whose holdings have been transferred around the region to Lancashire Archives, Liverpool Central Library and others. The Greater Manchester portion now forms part of the Greater Manchester County Records Office.

The entire archive takes up about 170 shelves in the archive strong rooms in the basement. It's made up of every sound format imaginable from wax cylinders, 78 shellac discs, LPs, reel to reels, cassettes, minidiscs, CDs and USB sticks. Many of these are very fragile and we would never provide access to the original recordings in case they become damaged. We'll be establishing a digitisation-on-demand service.

The full collection includes 50,000 catalogued items plus many uncatalogued collections. Approximately half of the archive is made up of BBC Radio Manchester and local independent radio station broadcasts documenting every aspect of twentieth-century life in the city region. There are thousands of LPs and shellac discs - mostly music hall and organ music. The wider catalogue of all this un-copied material will have to wait until the autumn to be published properly on gmlives.org.uk.

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We hope to develop sound booths in the Archives+ exhibition to stream mp3 copies. We'll be working to develop strategies for collections development, digitisation and research with other local authorities in the region, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Library and with our Archives+ colleagues at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester.

If you have any questions about the collection please email archiveslocalstudies@manchester.gov.uk

Happy listening!

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