Sounding Out


Principal investigator: Dr Christopher Morton

Lead researcher: Dr Noel Lobley (University of Virginia, USA)

Associate sound archivist: Blake Thomas Morton


Sounding Out: Reconnecting sound recordings with communities will reconnect some of the Pitt Rivers Museum's historic sound recordings from different parts of the world with the communities among whom they were initially recorded or collected in order to help us better understand them, as well as share them with others.

Working directly with source communities in such places as South Sudan, Nepal, Macedonia, Papua New Guinea, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Vanuatu and Colombia, the first phase of the Sounding Out project (2022-2023) will reach out and connect with a number of these communities, sharing high quality audio copies for community use, recording responses and discussing possible futures for them.


Visualisation of Louis Sarno audio track with photograph of Aka woman in background, by Nathaniel Mann

Visualisation of Louis Sarno audio track from Central African Republic with photograph of Aka woman in background, by composer in residence Nathaniel Mann 2012-13


The communities’ audio or visual responses will be recorded on the museum's research database, promoted via our website and social media channels, and made available within the Museum through our Engaging The Senses ‘sound shower’ kiosk - located on the Lower Gallery. This will enable Museum visitors to watch community responses to the recordings - both on-line and in-person - whilst also being able to hear the original historic recordings.

The project will also initiate a new programme of digitisation and cataloguing of its world music holdings, that will become available on the Museum's collections online in 2023.

The Sounding Out project builds on the Museum's successful Reel to Real project (2012) that digitised a number of field recordings in the collection and made them available both at events in the Museum and well as through playlists on the Museum's Soundcloud channel.

In 2022 the Museum made a selection of these digitised recordings available on a new sound shower on the Lower Gallery of the Museum, where a curated playlist is available to listen to:


The team are actively seeking funding for Phase 2 of the project, which will enable indigenous musicians to create new work in response to the historic recordings as well as fund performances in the Museum itself, showcasing both contemporary responses and the historic recordings themselves.