Virtual sound museums: digital phonographic archives as Sonic Time Capsules

Dr Felicity Ford
Sonic Arts Research Unit (SARU), Oxford Brookes University

This paper examines how digitally creating and archiving field-recordings might inform the physical production of a sonic time capsule. A Sound Diaries project by Felicity Ford entitled “The UK Soundmap / Sonic Time Capsule” forms a case-study for this examination.

In “The UK Soundmap / Sonic Time Capsule” Sound Diaries project, field-recordings deemed characteristic of everyday life in 2011 were collected and presented online on the Sound Diaries website. Integral to the project’s concept was that each recorded sound would also be publicly submitted to the online UK Soundmap, created by The British Library.

In a sense, making field-recordings publicly destined for the UK Soundmap was a deliberate act of “making history”, and this intentionality shaped several aspects of the endeavor. This project also intersected with the archival practices of the British Library, extending the new relationships between artists and museums that are emerging in the hyperlinked, hyperconnective digital age. The project exemplifies a contemporary trend in which the roles of museums, sound archives, artists and sound-objects are becoming more transparently interdependent and entwined. However the meaningfulness of “The UK Soundmap / Sonic Time Capsule” Sound Diaries project to a future listener is entirely contingent on the online contexts of The UK Soundmap and the Sound Diaries website retaining their comprehensibility and functions as frameworks. This paper asks how this project might be preserved in a non-digital fashion, or whether the project is impossible to replicate in a non-digital form or context.


12:00 (PRM Lecture Theatre) Saturday, November 24
Session 2: Making Sonic Time Capsules: Histories and Futures of Listening and Circulating