Letter: 20th century voices

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was surprised to read Paul McCann's article "BBC to tape the people's 20th century" (12 December).

The Imperial War Museum Sound Archive already has some 28,000 hours of "people talking about their lives during the 20th century". Our 25-year- old, ongoing, oral history programme comprises recordings of men and women, civilians and service personnel, in a social history collection that documents the entire century, including the two major wars, up to the present day. It covers such areas as employment, domestic life, medicine and health, sex, food, religion, technology, entertainment and politics. The accounts span courage, fear, humour, love and loss.

Listening copies of our master recordings are available in analogue and digital formats. The archive is regularly consulted free of charge by academics, schools groups, authors, broadcasters and interested individuals.

Efforts to expand the documentation of this century's history via professional oral history interviews should be applauded. It would, however, be wrong to give the impression that we must wait for the millennium and the efforts of the BBC in order to listen to the tales of this century.


Keeper of the Sound Archive

Imperial War Museum

London SE1