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Website of the Week — Vincent Voice Library


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

This week, our Website of the Week is a site where you can listen to more than a century's worth of historic spoken word recordings.

SHAW: "The Vincent Voice Library is an academic collection of sound recordings dating back to about 1888. Think of it as a famous voices museum."

John Shaw is a librarian at Michigan State University, the home of the Vincent Voice Library, at vvl.lib.msu.edu. The library has some 15,000 digitized items in its collection, though for copyright reasons only a fraction of the total is online. But those online recordings include many significant moments in history. For example, here is President Franklin D. Roosevelt, speaking to the American people in 1940 in one of his famous fireside radio chats.

ROOSEVELT: "This is not a fireside chat on war. It is a talk on national security. ..."

SHAW: "The voice, in and of itself, provides an incredible source of information about a person. The Voice Library is about voices and about people that are sharing the events. Current events have become history. The idea is that, when you listen to FDR delivering this speech, whether you can see him or not, you get a lot of information from the voice, and really maybe for the purist that's really the way to understand that person, is by the sound of his voice."

The man behind this collection, G. Robert Vincent, started it when, as a boy, he made a recording of the first President Roosevelt, Theodore, or Teddy, in 1912. He later donated his private collection to Michigan State, and the university has added to it since then.

Today, you can listen to the voices of Soviet Union founder, V.I. Lenin, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, British statesman David Lloyd George, and many others.

The Vincent Voice Library is a good example of how academic institutions are sharing their treasures with the world. It's also, of course, a good example of how intellectual property rights can sometimes limit that sharing. But even if you can't listen to the entire archive, there is still plenty to educate, inform and maybe even entertain you at vvl.lib.msu.edu, or get the link from our site, voanews.com.

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