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Jobs from the Reach files - 7

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In this regular series Olive Braman tells how volunteers can use their skills and expertise through REACH, the charity that places professional and business people in part time voluntary jobs

You can find all the Jobs From the REACH Files articles from the Volunteering Index


 A collection of natural sound effects used by scientists, nature experts, film and tv producers is reaping  huge benefits from the work of two of expert volunteers. The National Sound Archive (NSA) at the British Library stores the sounds of nature. Its Wildlife section is the largest collection of its kind in Europe and the most comprehensive in the world. It holds more than 120,000 scientifically organised and documented recordings of all classes of sound-producing animals, the earliest made by Ludwig Koch in 1889.  

With a store like that, it's hardly surprising that the NSA had built up a backlog of data entry of its catalogue.  It appealed to REACH, the charity which  places individuals with professional and managerial experience in part-time jobs with voluntary organisations.

Enter former agriculturalist Edward Bacon, newly retired and looking for some fulfilling voluntary work.  He committed himself to one to two daysin the Wildlife section, and both never looked back.  "The work has been interesting and absorbing,” he says.  “I had no experience before of computer cataloguing.  For me it is a totally new skill.   I work from the original recording sheets and catalogue onto a large database.'  As a bonus, he gets to listen to snatches of wildlife sounds from the familiar and homely to the unfamiliar, strange and exotic.

Dr Hazel Russman, from Harrow, also a REACH volunteer, has been helping to prepare the database for its forthcoming launch on the World Wide Web. This involved checking for inconsistencies in records converted from the old paperbased catalogue.  In some cases it meant going back to the scientists’ original hand written notes.  

For Dr Russman, it was familiar ground.  "The work was very similar to what I did as information scientist with the Building Research Establishment.  I was the database editor, library expert and trouble shooter."

Thanks to the two volunteers, the work is nearly finished, much to the delight of NSA Wildlife curator Richard Ranft.   Now he hopes that they will input new recordings as new collections continue to be donated.   They come in regularly, not only from scientists, but from amateur enthusiasts who hand over their precious collections.   If you have any yourself, or know of a collector, contact the National Sound Archive  - see details below.  

NSA contact Richard Ranft, telephone 020 7412 7402.

REACH London office:  Tel: 020 7582 6543.  

Look out for future features from Olive Braman on Jobs From The REACH Files or view all the REACH Files Articles from our Volunteering Index

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