Luke McKernan, lead curator of news and moving image, wrote in the January 12 announcement: “Archival consensus internationally is that we have approximately 15 years in which to save our sound collections by digitising them before they become unreadable and are effectively lost.” The recordings date back to the 1880s, including everything from the voices of Florence Nightingale, James Joyce, and World War I soldiers, to the cacophony of retrotech steam engines. Curator Will Prentice added in an editorial for the Guardian:
The experience of listening to them is as close to time travel as we’ve ever come. From the rare or iconic to the ephemeral and everyday, recordings give a living picture of the world changing around us. All of this risks being lost for ever unless it is properly preserved, and at the British Library, the home of the UK Sound Archive, we face a big challenge as we endeavour to safeguard the nation’s collection of 6.5m sounds.