The Joys of Audiovisual Archaeology

The Internet can be a place of many strange delights and many time-wasting distractions. But it’s hard to deny is that it has given people access to invaluable education. There’s plenty of written history to be had, but the web (particularly Youtube) has made the rarer bits of the audiovisual history of our world easy for anyone to find.

In my opinion, this is one of the great pleasures of the web: discovering pieces of life that existed before the web but might otherwise have been lost.

Recorded audio goes back to the 1860s and the phonautograph. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons, we have a bit of the audio recorded with that forerunner of audio technology:

Here is Thomas Edison making that first ever phonograph recording a bit later in 1878:

Wonder what Queen Victoria sounded like? There is an audio recording on YouTube restored from an 1888 recording:

You can go back to 1892 to hear a bit of a Grover Cleveland campaign speech:

Enjoyed the movie “The King’s Speech”? The web George VI’s famous radio speech given at the outbreak of England’s involvement in World War II:

Want to see an interview with the famed German psychologist Carl Jung? There’s a BBC interview on YouTube:

You can watch John Maynard Keynes gloating about the end of the gold standard in the United Kingdom:

Then you can hear Ludwig von Mises talk about wages and employment (if you like economics):

Here is an early performance of the ballet “Appalachian Spring,” originally composed by Aaron Copeland and performed by Martha Graham in 1944:

Archivists in the Great Depression years had the foresight to capture audio from former slaves:

My own forays into audiovisual archaeology have taught me that the past is far closer and far more accessible than I realized. Dive in – you might be surprised by what you can see moving and talking from decades (or even a century) ago.


Intellectual credit: Thanks to the Wikipedia article on sound recording, I learned about the phonautograph.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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