True Echoes is a research project that is reconnecting a rich archive of early sound recordings of Oceanic cultures with the communities from which they originate.

True Echoes is centred on digitised wax cylinder recordings from the British Library Sound Archive. The wax cylinder collections include recordings made in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Torres Strait Islands in Australia between 1898 and 1924.

These unique recordings, created using phonographs, are hugely significant as they include early documentation of oral traditions and represent some of the earliest uses of sound in anthropological research.

They include music, stories, speeches and many different types of songs; from hunting songs to hymns, lullabies to funeral dirges.

True Echoes is working with cultural and research institutions in the region and in the UK to enhance the visibility and accessibility of these collections, ensuring that they are catalogued in ways that are accessible to the communities whose heritage they represent.

This website aims to showcase the recordings and the research that has been undertaken between 2019 and 2022. True Echoes is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Cylinders from the C83 Edge-Partington collection
Cylinders from the C83 Edge-Partington collection
True Echoes has researched over 250 recordings of oral traditions made in Oceania between 1898 and 1924. Find out more about these unique wax cylinder recordings, where they came from, and who is featured on them.
Interviewing four interviewees. Fa’afo is second from the left
Fa’afofonga N. Patekalani (second on left) conducting an interview in Raikau, Hula
The project’s participatory research reconnects these early sound recordings with the communities from which they originate, to learn more about the recordings and what they mean to descendants today.