An aerial view of Emily Peasgood's Listening Desk in The British Library.
Listening Desk

Additional Information

Listening Desk is an interactive sound sculpture that invites people to access and create soundscapes with sound archives. It is installed at 10 locations around the UK: Archives+ in Manchester Central Library; Cumbria Archives in Carlisle Archive Center; Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne; Norfolk Record Office; The British Libraryoutside the King's Library; Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/The National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow; The National Library of Wales; The Wellbeing Collection at University of Sussex Library; Ulster Transport Museum, Cultra, County Down, Ireland; and University of Leicester in Sir Bob Burgess Building.

The Listening Desk is inspired by historic listening devices and instruments. I consider it the evolution of an archive reading desk into a listening device that emphasises the importance and value of exploring history through sound and what sound can tell us about the world. A parametric laser beam horn grows out of the desk towards the listener's head, with minimal sound bleed into the surrounding area. A bespoke soundscape sequencer is on a screen embedded into the desktop, inviting members of the public to composer soundscapes with archives at each sound archive.

The Listening Desk democratises access to sound archives in a fun and playful way.

Materials: Powder coated aluminium, oak, lino inlay. Interactive soundscape and oral history player created with Happylander, screen by AllSee Technologies, parametric speaker by Ultrasonic Audio Technology, hearing loop. 

Commissioner: Listening Desk was commissioned by The British Library for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, in partnership with Archives+, Manchester; Bristol Culture; Cumbria Archives, The Keep, Brighton; London Metropolitan Archives; National Library of Scotland; The National Library of Wales; National Museums Northern Ireland ; Norfolk Records Office; Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum; and University of Leicester.

Creative Team: Listening Desk was created in collaboration with Studio Ben Allen, East JR, Happylander and Cow Sike Workshop. 





United Kingdom