Digitizing Wax Cylinders at the British Library

The sound collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum includes three different sets of wax cylinders: over 400 cylinders recorded by Northcote Thomas in Nigeria and Sierra Leone (1909-15), 86 cylinders recorded by Evans-Pritchard in Zandeland, South Sudan (1928-30), and 94 cylinders recorded by Diamond Jenness in the D'Entrecasteaux Islands off New Guinea in Melanesia (1911-12). All of the playable cylinders have been digitized for the Pitt Rivers Museum by expert engineers at the British Library, Nigel Bewley and Will Prentice.

On 22nd January 2013 Chris Morton, project manager for 'Reel to Real', Noel Lobley, ethnomusicologist and project researcher, and Peter Hudston, research assistant, travelled to the studios at the British Library sound archive to retrieve the original cylinders. During this visit, Nigel Bewley, Will Prentice and Janet Topp Fargion were interviewed about their experiences working with these sound collections.

British Library Sound Archive website:

Sound Galleries

Musical torchlit trails at the Pitt Rivers Museum

On Friday November 23rd 2012, the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum were plunged into evening darkness and bathed in Bayaka music and sound from the Central African Republic. Visitors were given torches to explore the galleries that were transformed into a rich forest soundscape with sung fables, snatches of laughter, beautiful variations on harps and flutes, and the stunning polyphonic singing of Bayaka women. Hidden surprises included mini projections from the rainforests and a visualiser designed by Nathaniel Mann, the PRM's Embedded Composer in Residence. The evening was filmed By Mike Day of Intrepid Cinema as part of the Reel to Real project, and complemented the Oxford City-wide Christmas Light Night organised by Oxford Inspires. A four hour playlist of Bayaka music from the PRM's sound collections, originally recorded by Louis Sarno, was curated on the evening by Nathaniel Mann and Dr Noel Lobley. The event was streamed online, and was watched live in the Central African Republic by Louis Sarno and some of the Bayaka community.





Copyright 2012 The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford