Commons:Work With Sounds

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Work With Sounds is a project for recording the endangered or disappearing sounds of industrial society, and releasing them under a CC BY 4.0 license. Sounds will be recorded, and the process is also documented with film and photos. Work With Sounds is a Culture 2000 project financed by European Union and six museums in Europe. The sound are stored in a database but are also exported to Europeana and Wikimedia Commons.

Participating GLAMs[edit]

The following GLAMs are participating in the Work With Sounds project.

The Contribution[edit]

The logo for the project Work With Sounds

Work With Sounds is recording the endangered or disappearing sounds of industrial society – including sounds people try/tried to protect themselves from. During 1st September 2013 and 31st September 2015 at least 600 sounds will be recorded in their original settings. The compilation of sounds, films and photos will be collected at As a first step all films will be uploaded to YouTube, and all sounds to Wikimedia Commons.


Sound has always been a part of our work and everyday lives. It is always there, whether it is noticed or not. Sound is therefore an important aspect for experiencing, exploring, reconstructing and understanding different landscapes, environments and our cultural heritage.

Although sound is, or perhaps because it is, such a natural part of live, sounds are seldom caught, let alone recorded–despite the fact all European countries work hard to preserve the cultural heritage. Especially historical sounds are hard to find. The historical sounds preserved are mostly music or media broadcastings, like films, TV and radio shows. In these sources some historical sounds of everyday and working life can be found, but specific sounds from a sound environment which is recorded as a whole cannot be isolated and reused. Therefore there is a need for separate recordings of more specific sounds. The separate sounds can be used to recreate historical environments or new ‘soundscapes’ as it is sometimes called. With the sounds of for example tilt planes, lathes, drills, millings, fans and shaft conduits, the soundscape of an old mechanic workshop or other environments that have never been recorded can be reconstructed. The everyday life of the industrial society was multifaceted. A broad catching of environments such as laundries, cottage hospitals and schools are therefore very important. Pictures shows us what these environments looked like, but how did they sound?

Fortunately there are still some environments where separate historical sounds can be reconstructed and recorded, for example in industrial or working life museums where whole working places–buildings, furniture, tools and machinery–are preserved. The people engaged in these museums are often people that once worked in the site, or know a lot about it, which opens up for interviews to learn more about the sound and its origins. The recordings in work life and independent museums or other environment will also be complemented by recordings of the partner museum’s collections. There is also a possibility to catch sounds and experiences from working environments that are still in operation, but will very soon disappear.

Sounds are needed to maki ‘history come to life’ for educational reasons in schools and museums. But sound is also important parts of artistic work, performances, music, media productions, computer games and other productions. There is also a growing public interest in the old industrial environments all across Europe, abandoned places like old mills, factories, production plants etc, which engages subcultures like urban explorers and a growing number of innovating art creators using new media.

There are some sounds available on the internet, but these are poorly documented and they lack historical background. There is seldom, if ever, information about where and how the sound was recorded, if it is a genuine or reconstructed sound, what kind of machine, tool or environment it is from, or how and when it was used or other kinds of additional information connected to the sound. This kind of information is essential in a serious effort to preserve this part of our cultural history, and to be able to use the sounds in appropriate ways when making historical reconstructions. In this project a database with sounds created, recorded and documented by qualified museum workers is developed. Every sound will be described in a way that ensures the users that they have the right and relevant information about the sound, where it is from and the circumstances under which it was recorded. This means that the sounds will get a sort of ‘museum quality stamp’.

The files[edit]

Reporting errors[edit]

Please contact project leader Torsten Nilsson, Swedish Air Force Museum, Linköping, Sweden.

See also[edit]

Press mentions[edit]