Don’t be “a society with Alzheimer’s”

Bournemouth University’s Professor of Radio, Sean Street, gave a compelling lecture last month on the importance of sound archives as means of preserving valuable historical records.

Professor Street said: “Media archives are the story of our times. Without them we become a society with Alzheimer’s, existing in a permanent present, without a societal memory or a context for living.”

And the captivated audience who listened to the voice of Florence Nightingale from 1890 and Britain’s last executioner Albert Pierrepoint, joking about the weight of the victim, would undoubtedly agree.

As Sean explained: ‘There’s such emotional power that you don’t get in a transcript. For instance, in the IRN recording of Ian smith broadcasting on the hand-over of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1979, you hear the weariness and bitterness in the voice which adds so much extra meaning to the event.”

This lecture formed the last in the 2011 Bournemouth University series entitled ‘BU People on the World Stage: Challenging, Influencing, Surprising’.

But the event was a double finale as ‘Saving the Sound, Spreading the Word’ was Professor Street’s last official lecture before retiring after 24 years at the University. In that time he has made a remarkable contribution to the world of academia and radio.

Most recently, in his position as Director of Bournemouth’s Centre for Broadcasting History Research, Professor Street has led a major project to digitise UK radio archives and provide an online educational tool.

This valuable historical resource includes the LBC/IRN Audio Archive, which contains around 4,000 hours of news output from 1973 – 1996.

The collection is in three parts: The Programme Sharing Archive, The Wessex Film and Sounds Archive Commercial Radio Collection and The LBC/IRN Audio Archive. It can be accessed by educational institutions by visiting the British Universities Film and Video Council website.