North West Sound Archive
The introduction of reel-to-reel tape recorders meant that, for the first time, there was an easy practical way to record memories and reminiscences - although the term "Oral history" came later. The arrival of the cassette recorder in the early 70s made recording even easier leading to organisations and individuals building up collections of oral history material.
Sound recordings often complement the printed word, written word and other traditional sources of information but there were still many gaps in written testimony that could be filled by the use of oral history. In the late 1970s a public meeting was held and, from the support shown, the North West Sound Archive was established in 1979 to "record, collect and preserve sound recordings of the life, character, history and traditions of the north west of England". After several homes in Manchester the Archive moved to Clitheroe Castle - premises occupied since 1982.
From these early beginnings, although the tape-recording of oral history is still a principal objective, it soon became evident that there were many other sound recordings worthy of permanent retention including dialect, music, local radio programmes and the sounds of the region (textile machinery, railway engines etc). The Archive, and its collections, continue to grow steadily and today it holds over 110,000 items, making it probably the largest collection in the United Kingdom outside London.
Preserved, amongst others, are the memories of cotton mill workers, engineers, canal workers, railway workers, colliers, even conversations with prisoners in Strangeways. Important collections include The Survey of English Dialects, Folk Music, Jodrell Bank Radio Astronomy Collection, Manchester Jewish Museum Oral History Collection, Children's playsongs, Manchester Ship Canal memories, Bolton Oral History Survey, Birdsong, and an extensive collection of 78rpm shellac gramophone records.
The majority of the recordings are available to the public either for research purposes or general interest and can be listened to either here at the Archive (by appointment) or by loan copies.
As well as the collection of sound material, another important facet of the work of the Archive is the collection of dialect and technical words and terms from the region. This collection is constantly being added to and up-dated. Work continues on the etymological side and the collection now comprises over 15,000 words.
The North West Sound Archive offers advice on the conservation, preservation and storage of sound recordings and also stores security copies of many regional oral collections. Through its outreach work, NWSA regularly holds training sessions in the techniques of oral history recording and offers technical advice on equipment, microphones, tapes etc.
North West Sound Archive
Telephone/Facsimile: 01200 427897
Email: See their website for contact details
Cotton Mill Workers Reminiscences
Sounds of Cotton Machinery
Sounds Main Page