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UNESCO recognises ethnographic recording work

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UNESCO has recognised The British Library’s Historic Ethnographic Recordings as a collection of global significance and outstanding universal value. UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee has agreed to include The Historic Ethnographic Recordings in its Memory of the World International Register, which is a documents and archives equivalent of the list of World Heritage Sites.

The Historic Ethnographic Recordings collection contains many rare field recordings of orally-transmitted cultures made throughout the world by linguists and musicologists. Janet Topp Fargion, lead curator, world & traditional music at the British Library said: ‘Not only were these recordings among the first of such to be made but also some may be the last as many of the languages and musical practices that feature in the collection are now endangered or no longer exist.’

The International Register is the public face of UNESCO's Memory of the World programme, which promotes access to the world's archive holdings and library collections, as well as their preservation. The Historic Ethnographic Recordings collection of wax cylinders and early acoustic era sound recordings, which dates from 1898 to 1951, now ranks alongside the 238 items recognised by the committee including such documents as Bayeux Tapestry, Book of Kells, Mappa Mundi and the Magna Carta.