The Smithsonian National Museum of American History announced on Tuesday that later this year, about 300 previously unheard recordings by inventor and scientist Alexander Graham Bell will be repaired and made available.
The museum will start working on the recovery of the hundreds of experimental recordings that Bell and his associates made between 1881 and 1892 at his farm in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, and at Volta Laboratory in Washington, DC.
Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan director at the museum, said in a statement that over the course of the three-year “Hearing History: Recovering Sound from Alexander Graham Bell’s Experimental Records” project, “we will preserve and make accessible for the first time about 300 recordings that have been in the museum’s collections for over a century, unheard by anyone.” “We appreciate the public-private collaboration for supporting this exciting and creative endeavor.”
Bell, who was born in Scotland in 1847, is renowned for creating the telephone, which was first patented in 1876.
The Volta Laboratory Associates, which included Bell, his cousin Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter, conducted research on various sound recording and reproduction techniques, including photography and magnetic replication, according to the Smithsonian. The group experimented with making recordings on cylinders and discs, and the Smithsonian claims that their sound studies ultimately inspired the development of the wax cylinder record and the graphophone, a device for recording and playing back cylinders.
Through cooperation with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the museum announced on Tuesday that it had restored sound from 20 experimental recordings made at Volta Laboratory, where Bell did some of his research.