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International Register

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Humanity’s First Recordings of its Own Voice The Phonautograms of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (c.1853-1860)
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Humanity’s First Recordings of its Own Voice The Phonautograms of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (c.1853-1860) - Post view
Region / Country - International Organization > Association for Recorded Sound Collections(ARSC)
Year of Registration 2013
Possessing Institutions Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)
Management Institution Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)
The world’s audio memory begins here. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented sound recording when he conceived of a machine that would do for the ear what the camera did for the eye. His “phonautograph” inscribed airborne sounds onto paper, over time, to be studied visually. He called his recordings “phonautograms.” Collections of his work lay silent in venerable French institutions for 150 years—their provenance indisputable and their chain of custody uninterrupted. Historians have recently located six collections containing 50 sound recordings made between c.1853 and 1860. Neither Scott de Martinville nor his contemporaries conceived of playing back his recordings; however, modern scholars and technologies have coaxed nearly 20 to speak and sing to date.

These are humanity’s first recordings of its own voice. In recognition of their technological and cultural significance, the United States’ Library of Congress inducted these recordings into its National Recording Registry in 2011. In 2017 institutions in France and the United States will further raise awareness as they commemorate the bicentennial of Scott de Martinville’s birth. Induction onto the International Memory of the World Register will transcend national boundaries and celebrate humanity’s first voice recordings as the patrimony of all mankind.