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British Library maps sounds across UK

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The British Library is launching an interactive survey to map and preserve sounds from across the UK. UK SoundMap, which is being carried out in collaboration with Noise Futures Network and Audioboo, will collect sounds recorded on smartphones using the free Audioboo recording application.

Anyone can get involved with this research project just by recording their surroundings and then describing them with simple tags and comments.

The recordings are generated as high-quality audio files with GPS data embedded. These files are then made available almost instantly on Audioboo FM as MP3 versions and referenced on the interactive map displayed on the British Library website. The recordings and data will be retained permanently and made accessible to everyone for generations to come.

'Finding innovative and cost-effective ways to collect data is crucial for the future of research. The aim of this crowd-sourcing project is to create a significant body of audio samples for environment researchers as well as capturing the imagination of the public to celebrate their favourite sounds,' commented Richard Ranft, head of the British Library Sound Archive.

'Displaying them on an online map will allow both contributors and users to interact and have access to a variety of sounds. We anticipate a variety of recordings from home to leisure, at all different times of the day and year. Some will be noisy, some will be tranquil but all will provide a unique record of sounds throughout the UK.'

The project will to run for a year through to the summer of 2011 and is expected to aggregate over 10,000 recordings. Sounds recorded during a pilot project in Sheffield included street and transport noises, the sounds of Hillsborough Barracks shopping arcade and a narration giving a personal angle of how much one particular area has changed.

The sounds from the project will be studied by acoustic ecologists and urban planners from the Noise Futures Network. This type of database is expected to be extremely valuable in understanding the type and distribution of various sounds in our environment.